On Wednesday night the Davis City Council reaffirmed its status as a sanctuary city. The resolution noted that “undocumented immigrants are victims of abuses related to work, housing, and access to basic government-provided resources, and are constantly fearful of deportation.”
The resolution further notes, “The City of Davis supports a fair and just reform to the immigration process, where local funds and resources are not used to enforce federal immigration laws, and where the Davis Police Department has actively committed not to seek out and persecute individuals within the city limits because of their documented status.”
The city recognizes “its past commitment both to refugees and undocumented migrants to this country, and provides itself as a safe community until they can return to their homelands or until they receive federally-recognized residency in the United States.”
Mayor Pro Tem Robb Davis introduced Andrea Gaytan of the UC Davis AB540 and Undocumented Student Center, which offers undocumented students and their families immigration-related legal services on campus.
Ms. Gaytan told the council that the center has been open a month as of today (Thursday). “Our primary goal is to support the undocumented students at UC Davis in achieving their academic and professional goals. But we also aim to be a regional resource to provide service and support to undocumented people across Yolo County and the north Central Valley.”
They offer both students and community members access to free consultations in partnership with a program with the UC Davis Immigration Law Clinic.
“Most importantly,” she said, they offer “a sense of community and a safe space on campus for undocumented students.”
UC Davis currently has 230 undocumented students on campus this year, triple the number of students they had only three years ago. The California Dream Act has enabled state and private funding for AB 540 undocumented students. Ms. Gaytan anticipates continued growth in the undocumented students as outreach efforts improve.
“If I had to characterize the undocumented students I’ve met in my position as director, I could very confidently say that they are superstars, they’re outstanding people and if you knew them, you’d be proud to call them your friend, your neighbor or your colleague,” Andrea Gaytan said.
Reverend Elizabeth Banks at the Unitarian Universalist Church described that two weeks ago, when she was with a delegation of clergy at the border of Mexico in Nogales, she visited the shrine for one of the deaths that had occurred with people trying to cross the border.
She said that each of these deaths are depicted on a map in the form of red dots and that members of her delegation were given littering citations for leaving water at the places where the most red dots appear on the map.
Reverend Banks described sitting in a Tucson, Arizona, courtroom where 70 men from Honduras admitted to guilt for crossing the US border illegally. “They were led to the courtroom with hands chained to their waists and feet chained together. Led to prison.”
“Two weeks ago I heard the story of young men, whose parents sent them north to a possible death in the desert, rather than have a certain death where the drug cartel would take them in Honduras,” she continued. “I sat in a church with a young woman who is in sanctuary to keep her in this country where she can be with her children who are legal citizens. Our congregations are urged to become sanctuaries again and I’m so pleased to see that our city could also be such a safe place.”
Ana Maciel, a third year student at UC Davis, works for the AB540 and Undocumented Student Center. She said this resolution “sticks really close to my heart as I, myself, am an undocumented student, here in Davis. The center gives me that space on campus but definitely reaffirming that this is going to be citywide is heart-warming to me and to a lot of my peers.”
Vanessa Natalie Cerdá Rojas is a student at UC Davis and said, “When I first arrived at Davis, I felt like I was in a dream. My brain couldn’t comprehend just how safe I felt and up to this day, I continue to feel the same. I know that many of my peers share this feeling, especially my AB 540 peers, the dreamers, those students who are among the 11 million whose voices remain unheard due to their immigration status in the United States.”
“Today, I along with others are here to give those 11 million people a voice, we ask you to keep the city of Davis, a city of sanctuary, a place where undocumented students can freely bike to class and take a midterm without thinking of their legal status. Where children can attend school without worrying about when their parents will get detained. Where parents can make their way to work without the fear of getting deported and having no one to care for their children,” she said.
“Documented or undocumented, everyone deserves an equal opportunity to live in harmony in a safe and peaceful environment. It is a human right, Davis is their sanctuary and we thank you for keeping it this way,” she concluded.
The Davis City Council then moved the item and passed it unanimously.
—David M. Greenwald reporting