Mad River Union
ARCATA — Moving to assuage North Coast deportation fears, U.S. Representative Jared Huffman (D-2nd District) is pressing for rumor control, collaboration with local law enforcement and bipartisan moves in Congress to protect Dreamers (immigrant minors) from the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown.
Sorting out false alarms from the facts is essential because so many rumors are swirling around about immigration raids and sweeps, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents supposedly swooping in on schools and hospitals, Huffman told a packed town hall here last week.
“I’m hearing this a lot from the immigrant community,” Huffman reported. So far, however, his office has documented no such raids or sweeps.
He encouraged his constituents to contact his office when a rumor circulates, to verify its accuracy. “My office will call ICE and establish the facts,” he said.
Huffman reassured the hundreds in the cavernous Arcata High School gym that nothing in federal law requires local police to become immigration agents “or cooperate with immigration authorities in any way.
“The good news is that most of the sheriffs and police departments in my district have no interest in doing that. They understand that if they are perceived in their communities as arms of ICE, nobody’s going to trust them, no one’s going to report crimes in their neighborhood or turn people in when they commit crimes. Pretty soon you’d have a complete erosion of trust between the community and law enforcement.”
These sentiments were buttressed by Eureka Police Chief Andrew Mills in an online statement that coincided with Huffman’s visit:
“Eureka Police Department will not stop, detain or arrest people because of their color, national origin, race or religion. That is unconstitutional, unlawful and wrong. EPD policy says immigration enforcement is only conducted for ‘serious violations or investigative necessity.’” Arcata Police Chief Tom Chapman voiced much the same early last month. Asked about the potential impact of a city council decision to declare Arcata a sanctuary city, he said, “The reality is we rarely, if ever, have a reason to enforce immigration laws.” Sanctuary status would not alter that (Union, Feb. 15).
Congressman Huffman affirmed that local officers are not doing traffic stops with immigration checks or going into the schools or hospitals.
“Immigrants need not fear taking their children to hospitals,” he added. “If, God forbid, the Trump administration does start crossing those red lines, we will take it to court [and] the state of California will take it to court. We will fight them and I think we’ll prevail,” he pledged to an outpouring of applause.
The House Democrat was greeted by a highly enthusiastic audience with frequent bursts of applause and a handful of posters scattered here and there reading, “We Are a Nation of Immigrants,” “Resist Trump Fascist Lies” and “Hooray for Our Side.”
Huffman hastened to acknowledge that President Trump’s new pronouncements last week expanding the ranks of immigrants subject to deportation are, in his view, “deeply, deeply troubling.”
Referring in particular to the legal status of undocumented immigrant minors, the North Coast lawmaker declared, “Certainly if we get any sign that Dreamers are getting caught up in any of this, we’ll fight that any way we can. Despite what it looks like right now [majority Republican control of the House and Senate], I think there’s bipartisan support to protect the Dreamers in the United States Congress. We will push back, I hope, as necessary.”
A new CBS News poll late last week showed that when Americans are asked to name the most important problem this year, immigration is number one, followed closely by jobs and health care. Republicans are especially likely to say immigration should be the chief priority for the president and Congress, CBS reported.
Huffman’s staff has posted a series of immigrants’ rights on his House website, though the information is not to be construed as legal advice. It states in part:
- If an agent arrives at your residence, ask for the warrant to be passed under the door.
- You have the right to refuse to answer questions. ICE can use anything you say against you in your immigration case.
- You do not have to reveal your immigration status either to law enforcement or to schools.
On another subject, a man identifying himself as a veteran, housepainter, Brian Fallon, asked Huffman to remedy the glaring lack of primary care physicians at the Eureka Veterans Clinic.
“We’ve been told they won’t come here because they take a cut in pay,” Fallon related. “That’s wrong. Us veterans need doctors and we need good doctors. Can you help us try to correct this problem?”
Huffman called the situation a tragedy and a long-term problem, saying he would pursue adjusting the doctors’ compensation formula and other unspecified incentives to attract them here.