Prepare, educate, resist. That was the advice repeatedly offered Friday night to more than 150 immigrants and members of Santa Barbara’s Latino community who filled the pews of Trinity.
Episcopal Church for a forum titled “How to Prepare Your Family in Case of a Deportation,” which featured speakers from the Mexican Consulate, Santa Barbara Police Department, Santa Barbara Unified School District, and the city’s faith community.
Jonathan Elias Alvarez-Alzua, consul of community affairs in the Oxnard consulate, assured the audience that despite rumors and media reports to the contrary, federal immigration agents are not conducting indiscriminate arrest raids. As they have under previous administrations, Alvarez-Alzua said, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials are targeting specific undocumented immigrants with criminal records for deportation.
But that may soon change, he warned, and it is critical for families to prepare themselves in the event a parent or loved one is taken into custody. Alvarez-Alzua advised parents to register their children with the Mexican Consulate’s office to ensure they have access to school and health care should they be deported, to start banking online so funds can be more easily transferred between American and Mexican banks, and to grant a trusted friend or family member power of attorney.
Officer Adrian Gutierrez said his agency does not participate in ICE operations and is not alerted when federal agents enter the city. Even if ICE were to ask the Santa Barbara Police Department for assistance, Gutierrez said, Chief Lori Luhnow would decline to offer the agency’s resources. School boardmember Ismael Ulloa described how the district doesn’t collect citizenship information from its students and is committed to keeping ICE off school grounds. “We will protect your sons and daughters,” he said. Reverend Julia Hamilton of the Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara talked about establishing her church as a sanctuary space for immigrants. She and others implored other churches to do the same. Assemblymember Monique Limón and Councilmember Cathy Murillo also voiced their support.