When Gloria Molina asked me and several other community representatives into a meeting two weeks ago, I was both nervous and hopeful. We had quickly mobilized for the supervisors’ meeting after learning that Los Angeles County was preparing to renew its 287(g) deportation agreement, a contract with immigration authorities to train Los Angeles law enforcement and enable them to enforce immigration law, and that they’d be bringing it up for a vote. Los Angeles’s participation in the 287(g) program has been a catastrophic failure, so we went to the meeting with Supervisor Molina hoping to write 287(g)’s obituary.
It should be noted that both of the candidates campaigning for Sheriff publicly oppose the 287(g) program, and Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, some of the most conservative and anti-immigrant counties in the state, have either abandoned or been stripped of it. Even the notorious Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the monster of Arizona, acknowledges that the 287(g) program causes racial profiling. When a federal court intervened to stop unprecedented equal protection violations in Arizona, all parties agreed DHS encouraged unconstitutional treatment of immigrants.
Given all of this and the large immigrant population in the district she proudly says she represents and understands, I thought Supervisor Molina would finally be in step with developments on immigration in Los Angeles and the rest of the country. You see, for years immigrant rights organizations have tried to convince Supervisor Molina to abandon 287(g) and repair the grave injustices occurring within the Los Angeles jails. In large part because of her failure to do anything, we turned to Sacramento to pass the California TRUST Act last October, which created a bare minimum floor to limit collaboration between local law enforcement and immigration agents.
Across the country, the tide is turning against use of police and sheriffs as frontline enforcers of unjust immigration laws. More than 250 localities have now passed TRUST policies that limit involvement in deportations in hopes of rebuilding community trust, defending public safety, and respecting basic rights. In the City of Los Angeles, we’ve stopped responding to ICE’s detainer requests to hold people in jail for extra time. In places like Chicago, ICE has been kicked out of jails entirely. In New York, public funds are now allocated to give incarcerated immigrants counsel to stop deportations.
So when we went to our meeting with Supervisor Molina, we hoped she was ready to evolve on the issue. But when we started to talk it through, she interrupted repeatedly and ignored people’s comments and personal stories. One of the people in the room had spent nine months in the Adelanto Detention Center because of these programs, but she said she wasn’t “his therapist,” and it wasn’t part of her job to care about his emotional scars. Her dismissiveness grew stronger, and she simply walked out of the room as if that would stop families’ deportations. Some of the words Supervisor Molina used to describe our community I won’t even repeat here, but you can imagine the hurt the coldness caused, especially coming from another Latina, someone who started her career as a challenger, and is of immigrant background. For people who have gone through the pain of losing a loved one to deportation, it felt like a stab in an open wound.
A week after our meeting, the Board of Supervisors met again and renewed 287(g) in Los Angeles County, ensuring that Supervisor Molina ends her tenure on the Board as just another symbol in the long line of failed leadership on immigration reform. Quite literally tens of thousands of families have have been deported because she was unwilling and unable to take steps to defend our community. She clearly does not represent the immigrant community, largely part of “her” district. She is just another politician running on broken promises, running on the pain of our community, and her failure to take action inevitably shows her long legacy of deportations in Los Angeles County.
The somewhat good news is that there will be a new sheriff in town next year, and a new County Board of Supervisors. The damage done by Molina can (and will) be undone, and although the termination of 287(g) will be insufficient, it will be just one step in making the growing consensus to completely kick #ICEoutofLA a reality.
Meanwhile, we will continue to organize and hold all these elected officials accountable, and definitely not let them forget how they gained their office in the first place.
Edna Monroy is originally from Guerrero, Mexico, and is currently the Southern California Organizer with California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance. She resides in South Central Los Angeles. Follow Edna on Twitter at @Edna_SoLA.