City Workshop Eyes Immigrant Rights

City Workshop Eyes Immigrant Rights


In a time of political unrest and sanctuary uncertainty, the City hosted a Know Your Rights workshop on May 31 at Ruby Bridges Elementary School. The gathering served as an informative, albeit brief, respite for anxious immigrant families and concerned neighbors who showed up to get some answers.

Jim Franz, the Community Development and Resiliency Coordinator, organized the workshop. Mayor Trish Herrera Spencer addressed the audience. As a Latina, Spencer said that she stands in solidarity with the Hispanic community and those in fear of deportation.

“It’s critical that the actions that we take reach as many people as possible. That means working with our school district because all our families connect through our schools,” she said. She acknowledged the attorneys who came to the workshop, applauding them for all the important work they do for the city.

Spencer asked the children in the room to stand and reminded them that they are important and they are the reason for this fight for justice. In January, the Alameda school district passed the Safe Haven Resolution, which prevents authorities from having the power to take away anyone on school grounds without an official warrant.

In addition, the City passed the Sanctuary City Resolution, which reaffirms a former pledge to respect all residents regardless of their ethnicity, nationality, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or immigration status.

“In a basic way, I will tell you that nobody from the police department is interested in anyone’s immigration status unless they have committed a serious crime,” said Alameda Police Department (APD) Chief Paul Rolleri. He explained that minor offenses such as jaywalking or running a red light do not constitute a good reason to inquire about someone’s immigration status. “The police department has had a policy since probably 2009, regarding immigration contacts and immigration violations,” he said. 

Despite speculation, Chief Rolleri explained that his department did not terminate its relationship with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Rolleri explained that he wants to have ICE available if a serious crime is committed, such as a homicide or sexual assault.

Sara McPherson from the International Institute of the Bay Area also addressed the audience. She explained that her organization is a 99-year-old non-profit. Its eight offices provide low-cost and free legal services to immigrants around the Bay Area. 

McPherson reminded the immigrants in the audience that they had rights that they can use to their advantage. She encouraged immigrant families to create a plan in case they are separated unexpectedly by ICE. She told them that they never have to open the door for ICE if its officers come to their homes without an official warrant. McPherson provided a list of legal services organizations.

Daniel from Causa Justa provided the audience with an emergency hotline — 241-4011— to call if ICE detains them or anyone they know or if they suspect ICE activity in their neighborhoods.