Passionate Residents call on Marin BOS for County Sanctuary at TRUTH Forum

The Truth Act, signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in September 2016, requires local governing bodies in which local law enforcement has provided ICE access to an individual to hold a community forum to receive and consider public comment. Last night the Marin County Board of Supervisors held such a forum at the Civic Center in San Rafael. Sheriff Robert Doyle, embroiled in accusations of co-operation with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), presented his data and his excuses.

Some days before the forum and clearly in a lead up to it, Sheriff Doyle announced that he will no longer release inmate release date information to ICE unless the inmate has been charged with or convicted of a serious or violent crime. The overwhelming sentiment expressed by the attendees at the Forum was that Doyle refrain from any cooperation with ICE at all and that the Board of Supervisors legislate Marin as a Sanctuary County.

A huge crowd turned out to the forum, which took the form of a moderated presentation by Canal Alliance and then an open hearing for organizational and community comment.

The  Canal Alliance presentation was informative and compelling, and made the case for why the County should refrain from providing any platform to ICE, especially in this Trump Policy climate. What preceded their presentation was a rather inexcusably feeble representation by Sheriff Doyle, who has commandeered his Marin post with impunity for way too long!  He had to sit there and take in the rebuke. The antagonism of community who had little respect for his decisions on this issue. He was also thanked for the measure of cooperation and the ear he has provided in recent weeks to immigrant organizations. However to my keen eye it seems this is one of the few times he has been held accountable through the realm of SB 54 and the mandated meeting by the Truth Act.

The community and organizations had a massive showing. Doyle got an earful, with many directing their comments at him, citing personal experiences at his hands, to include deportations and what they described as cruel and unjust practices.  The anger and upset was palpable. The chamber was full with standing room only, and out of the couple hundred present only one pro ICE community member stood in defense of Doyle.  The overwhelming ask was that despite SB 54 Marin feels that the board of supervisors should implement legislation to make Marin a sanctuary county. It is clear we cannot depend on Doyle, though some slight shifts, to stop his collaboration with ICE!

The Board seemed to be taking it all in and their responsive expressions and nods to community leaves one with hope that they will follow the call for leadership – to not sit idly by- but rather to proactively legislate for sanctuary.One speaker called on them to provide Doyle policy with repercussion through their department finance budgeting.

A young man shared the heartbreak of the deportation of his parents and how near impossible it had become for him to survive the resulting homelessness, all while trying to pursue his education. A woman explained how she had been unjustly deported because of Doyle and how she had survived the experience. A young woman spoke for herself and read comments from a friend who was too terrified of Doyle and ICE to show up in person.

In 2017 ICE had made 137 notification requests of the Sheriff’s office and detained 68.  So far this year, the jail informed ICE of 172 undocumented inmates, and 65 of those were detained.

The ONLY argument Doyle was able to provide that he believes serves his position – is that of so called “public safety.”   And the only other excuse he was able to convey was the well known fact that our immigration system is broken and in need of reform.

For my part, I was present to bring awareness to the existence of LGBTQ asylum seekers who have considered San Francisco,  Bay Area and Marin a beacon for safety. A place where they would hope for sanctuary in any and all circumstances. A place where policy must reflect the values of the residents. I wanted Sheriff Doyle to know that when he participates in deportations, in any circumstances, he could be participating in sending someone to their death – and this could not be any more obvious than in the case of LGBTQ people whose countries of origins prescribe death penalties and lifelong prison terms just because they are gay or lesbian and just because of their gender identity.

When I stood up, I asked Sheriff Doyle to stay in his lane:  My take is that he has no right to act as judge and jury by throwing potential deportees into another system if he believe his system of justice is incapable of providing public safety. What a sad admission to his own inadequacy, law enforcement in Marin and that of our justice system. It is the job of our local law enforcement and judicial system to provide us as citizens with the public safety we need. It is not the job of ICE to take care of our public safety in Marin. I repeat that is partly Doyle’s job. And its a sad admission for him to make that he is incapable of doing that if he thinks he is furthering our safety by in effect handing people over to ICE. If he releases anyone – within the constraints of our system – there ought to be equality for all in such a release. American citizens have no other system to be released to for furthering public safety. So who is Doyle to judge that anyone else is deserving of another layer of justice? He may be sending them to their death through his participation.  As I said last night he must stand down! And if he cannot be trusted to do so, then the Board of Supervisors must bring all their power to bear, to ensure that he does.

I did not deliver my prepared remarks exactly as written here- but for the sake of further awareness am positing what i had prepared for the forum:

I am Melanie Nathan, I am a Marin based mediator and direct the African Human Rights Coalition with our head office in Marin. I stand in solidarity with all organizations and their immigrant constituents here tonight. I thank the BOS for the forum.

African HRC works with LGBTQI asylum seekers and refugees in and from African Countries who escape persecution especially from countries which criminalize their sexuality and gender identity. We have safe sheltered and provide services to asylum seekers here in Marin County.

In African countries people can be jailed for life and put to death for being LGBT.  They come to places like Marin for safety, for asylum.   There can be a gap in time when they are preparing asylum applications.

Sheriff Doyle and the Board of Supervisors – as elected officials you are tasked with representing the needs of all Marin County residents. Without time for detail these people are dangerously impacted by the current often unconstitutional mitigation of their rights and due process as impacted by Trump policy.  You can change how Marin responds to this.  For LGBTQI persons who could be deported the Sheriff is in effect acting as if he is judge and jury when he participates in any way with ICE. For some deportation is a death sentence.

Our immigration laws are in dire need of reform.  Inhumanity stems from such need . This cruelty has been dramatically exacerbated by the current administration and its unconstitutional policies.  It is out of keeping with our Marin values when any official in whatever capacity props up, supports or conforms in any manner to the heartless actions against our residents when they do not have to do so.

ICE has been directed out of a mandate of basic enforcement into one of terror. ICE is terrorizing school children, and good families, and LGBTQI residents –  and any form of unnecessary complicity by our appointed and elected officials, even under the veil of our criminal justice system, is unacceptable.

We recognize the humanity and value of every person who calls Marin their home, no matter their background, what they look like, or where they were born. Immigrants in all their realms of immigration are all of us. Please make sure that Marin reflects its values. Listen to our voices. Make Marin a Sanctuary County.|

My comment is only a time bit of what was said and took place last night. Our African LGBTQI constituents form a very tiny portion of Marin’s immigrant community, and they are as relevant as anyone else. I would like to more LGBTQI asylum seekers, refugees and immigrants in our beautiful Marin.   I am grateful to all who showed up, especially those at risk. I am grateful for all the hard work in this country by organizations and activists alike. I hope that the BOS will do the right thing for Marin – which, especially after what we all heard last night, means a proactive road to sanctuary for immigrants.

Here is more reporting:

– A forum in San Rafael Thursday evening pit the Marin County sheriff against a roomful of immigration rights supporters. Sheriff Robert Doyle is under fire for his relationship with Immigration and Custom Enforcement after the Marin County Jail in San Rafael has turned over more than 300 inmates for deportation in four years. “Even if there are no charges against you, you can still be picked up at the jail,” said Lucia Martel-Dow, director of Immigration Legal Services at Canal Alliance. HERE .    Unfortunately this TV Report gives more voice to only ONE person who spoke in favor of Doyle’s stance versus about 50 people who stood and spoke against – not to mention how many thousands of people the organizations represented in their commentary.

I will update this report with links to reports by others who provide more detail of the event.

Understanding the law and needs: LINKS:Truth Act: Transparent Review of Unjust Transfers and holds Act AB 2792: The TRUTH Act went into effect on Jan. 1, 2017. The TRUTH Act (AB 2792) provides vital know your rights information to our immigrant community members who are in Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) cross-hairs and bring some transparency to local law enforcement participation in federal immigration enforcement. 

AB 54. Doyle’s stand on issue from past: Marin County Sheriff Robert Doyle said Tuesday that a bill pending in the state Legislature to limit local law enforcement’s ability to communicate with immigration authorities would result in more undocumented immigrants in California being deported. “ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) has told us that if SB 54 passes, California is going to get targeted,” Doyle said during a conversation with the Marin Independent Journal’s editorial board. Doyle said current state law already prevents local law enforcement agencies from collaborating with ICE with few exceptions. Local supporters of the bill, however, say ICE has scooped up several undocumented immigrants immediately after being released from Marin County jail, even though they had committed relatively minor offenses.

Marin County Sheriff Robert Doyle is once again defending his policy on SB 54, a state law that became law in January limiting local law enforcement’s ability to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.As has been previously reported in the Marin Independent Journal, a story in the San Francisco Chronicle last week noted that Doyle is complying with requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for the release dates of inmates suspected to be undocumented immigrants.

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