Upward of 120 people poured into the Carpinteria Veterans Hall on Monday evening to attend an immigration panel put on by Indivisible Carpinteria in support of the area's immigrant community. “We’re here because we believe we need to protect immigrant families and workers in our community,” said Leslie Westbrook, cofounder of Indivisible Carpinteria, an organization devoted to peacefully resisting the new administration and its policies.
The audience was met with a panel of community leaders, ready to answer questions and share information on the effects of the Trump administration's expanded deportation order on the Carpinteria community. Panel members included Jesus Rocha of the California Rural Legal Assistance; Frank Rodriguez of the Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy; Marisol Alarcon, a Carpinteria immigration attorney; and Monsignor Richard Martini of St. Joseph Catholic Church.
“People deserve respect. No person is legal or illegal. Only behaviors are legal or illegal. All people have their dignity,” Father Martini affirmed in his opening remarks.
A question that kept finding its way back to the podium was that of how to better educate children fearing of deportation within their family. “We as a community can do something in school to help educate the kids ... we need to recognize and help the kids understand that they have options, and that running away is not the best option for them,” said attorney Alarcon. The group resolved to continue to share knowledge with those around them, as it is essential for at-risk families with children to know facts, safety, and even to decide upon an emergency plan for the worst.
The best thing a child can do is rely on facts rather than fast-spreading gossip, Alarcon stated, and a plan should be made with the adults in their family about where to go if someone was deported or detained. From her personal experience, Alarcon said, “They [middle and elementary school kids] are so scared … that they are talking among themselves and making plans for the occasion that somehow their parents are deported that they are going to run away.” This would put the children further at risk and is something the community needed to caution against, she said.
Pamphlets, informational packets, and an emergency hotline — text Immigration Alert Defense System (Alerta) to 24587 — set up by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to report confrontations with immigration authorities were distributed to the forum participants. ACLU also created a Mobile Justice App that allows citizens to film and record police during an arrest or raid and automatically sends that data to the ACLU.
Other guests included Carpinteria Mayor Fred Shaw as well as Lisa Valencia-Sherratt, district representative for Congressmember Salud Carbajal. She closed the night by asserting that her boss's "office is working very closely with the community here” and was “keeping their eyes open.”
Indivisible Carpinteria — which started with three members and now is up to 150 — hopes to continue its expansion and outreach in the four-year fight to resist Trump.