Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones held a raucous first-of-its-kind town forum with acting ICE director Thomas Homan yesterday. The crowd in the meeting was emotional, agitated and angry, yelling slurs, repeatedly calling the two men liars, and demanding answers for recent ICE activities in their community. At least one man was removed by security. There were many remarkable moments, among them the emotional words of a former Holocaust Survivor. (see video below …)
Sheriff Jones had his hands full attempting to communicate that while he cooperated with ICE inside his jail facility, he would not turn individuals into ICE himself or document the immigration status of people in the sanctuary city of Sacramento.
Director Homan stated his mission: “I wanted to come here and explain what we do and how we do it to set the record straight.”
He maintained that ICE has a target enforcement operation of those with criminal histories that make them a threat to public safety and national security. Residents of the community were skeptical and presented cases of immigrants without criminal histories who were targeted for deportation. Homan later responded to a question from California Senate President Kevin de León, that he prioritized criminals but “they’re not the only ones” who might be arrested.
“We have ICE offices all across California. We’re not going anywhere. We’re going to enforce the law in California.”
One standout moment at the slightly chaotic event occurred when a Holocaust Survivor stood at the mic:
Thank you for the forum that you have here tonight.
When I was a little boy in Poland, for no other reason but for being Jewish, I was hauled off by the Nazis. And for no other reason I was picked up and separated from my family, who was exterminated in Auschwitz. And I am a survivor of Auschwitz and Dachau.
I spent five and a half years in concentration camps, for one reason and one reason only—because we picked on people, and you as the sheriff, who we elected as sheriff of this county—we did not elect you for sheriff of Washington, D.C. It’s about time you side with the people here. And when this gentleman [acting ICE Director Thomas Homan] stands up there and says he doesn’t go after people, he should read today’s Bee. Because in today’s Bee, the Supreme Court Justice of California objected to ICE coming in and taking people away from the courts. Don’t tell me that this is a lie.
You stand up here Mr. Jones. Don’t forget—history is not on your side.
Director Homan responded:
“If I could address the last part of your question, sir, you mention I didn’t say we arrested people in Courthouses. We don’t arrest people on school grounds and churches and hospitals. We will arrest people in Courthouses.” He later admitted to arresting a person blocks away from a school, but not on school grounds.
Another standout moment came from a woman named Ava Delaney, who wanted to know why ICE was ramping up deportations based on Trump’s agenda when Trump himself is under investigation by the FBI. Perhaps it would be better to wait to see what happens with that investigation?
“[…] You say you want to follow the law. So, how can you follow the instructions of our President? He broke the law. He is under F.B.I. investigation for colluding with Russia. This is a true fact. Director Jim Comey said on national television, and this man may not even be our president in the next two months.”
He didn’t respond to the question about Trump’s legitimacy but restated that he had to enforce the law already on the books.
“We all are Americans here. We need to respect the law of this country. So you just can’t follow directions because he is our President. It sounds stupid, it sounds crazy, but this man is not normal. He’s not normal!” responded Ava.
The mayor of Sacramento, Darrell Steinberg approached the mic and asked how the Sheriff could protect the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) laws if Trump called these laws “executive amnesty” that should be removed from the books. Homan maintains that DACA recipients are not currently targeted, but couldn’t predict what would happen in the near future. Mayor Steinberg asked Sheriff Jones to make a commitment that he would not deputize ICE enforcement officers, and he responded affirmatively that he would not deputize ICE officers.
“You can understand the concern of the community when we do have a President who has made wildly inconsistent statements about these kinds of issues. The fear and the concern in this community and throughout the country I think is understandably very high,” said Mayor Steinberg.
People from Sacramento ACT presented a story of a person from a church congregation who was taken from their home with no prior criminal history. There were stories of ICE agents presenting themselves as police officers. Homan responded once again that his job was to enforce the law, and that their badges say ICE and police.
“If you’re asking me if we’re going to remove the word, ‘police’ from our jackets. That’s never going to happen,” said Homan.
In his final statement Director Homan said, “ICE officers have a heart” and that though he feels sorry for the plight of some people, he had a job to do. The crowd wanted him to know that doing your job sometimes also means questioning authority, especially when you see the dark side of history repeating itself.
Watch a partial video of the forum here, with the statement from the Holocaust Survivor:
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