History Is Not On Your Side

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Photo by Scott Strazzante, San Francisco Chronicle

The first public appearance of an ICE official - at an open forum earlier this week in immigrant-rich Sacramento - was met with massive, raucous crowds, with hundreds packing the Sacramento County Youth Gym, more people rallying outside, and about 80,000 watching a livestream on Facebook. Deemed controversial from the start, the event came as feds are threatening sanctuary cities, blaming them for what California's chief judge has blasted as the "troubling" practice of stalking courthouses to arrest undocumented immigrants there, and, in a sinister new move, detaining people even as they follow the rules and apply for green cards.

The planned event was especially criticized for featuring Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones alongside Thomas Homan, acting Director of U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement - a pairing that for many suggested an unholy alliance between two forces arrayed against them. At a time of often well-earned public distrust of local elected officials and law enforcement, said Mayor Steinberg - whose city offers sanctuary - such collaboration can only “stoke the fears of people who are already afraid.”

At the forum, Steinberg stood in line with dozens of others to challenge Jones about the apparent partnership, asking if he plans to deputize personnel to work in conjunction with immigration officials. Jones denied such plans, saying they will only cooperate with ICE by sharing information on jail inmates. The answer did nothing to quell the crowd's fear or anger, and eventually led to deputies hauling out protesters wearing t-shirts that read "ICE OUT!" as audience members chanted "Let...Them...Go!"

But the room fell silent when Bernard Marks, an 87-year-old Holocaust survivor and educator began to speak. Marks has written about a brutal childhood in Auschwitz and Dachau, about "just five left among the living" of an extended family of 200 because "we (were) different. We were scapegoats for a movement fueled by hate and discrimination." Today, recalling "how silent people were," he feels "compelled to speak out, to ask Americans to raise their voices" against the current Trumpian abuses - "We are starting with the Muslims. Who is next?” - and to "embrace the commitment to never repeat dark history." At the immigration forum, he likewise called on Jones to "serve your people here!" He ended by chiding both officials, in righteous rage, that, "History is not on your side."

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Photo by Mark Boster/L.A. Times

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