This has been a fairly busy week, but I wanted to circle back to two things that happened this week to quickly analyze and opine: the law enforcement response to the hate letter sent to the Islamic Center of Davis and the legislation introduced on immigration law.
On Tuesday, law enforcement and community leaders pushed back against a hate letter sent to the Islamic Center in Davis. The message was delivered by DA Jeff Reisig, and he said, “If you see a hate incident, report it, we will act.”
As an editorial in the Enterprise noted, “In this case, the ‘Americans for a Better Way,’ the people (or, more likely, person) responsible for these letters, have chosen to stay hidden; and it’s a sign of our information-saturated society, and the post-election climate of uncertainty, that one disgruntled letter-writer and his copier could sow consternation and fear all over the country.
“But society showed us something else; that sometimes an action can have an opposite and unequal reaction. The outpouring of support for our Muslim neighbors from Davis political leaders, law enforcement and ordinary citizens vastly outstripped the ugly sentiments.”
I have mixed feelings on the response, but I do think it was overall the right thing to do. Some on here and elsewhere suggested that this was largely “fake news” and generated by the media.
Well perhaps, but this event was called by the district attorney, and flanked by law enforcement leaders in this county like Davis Police Chief Darren Pytel and Sheriff Ed Prieto.
In my view, this was a time for the law enforcement leaders to hit back hard on a message that was clear and ambivalent. When a letter says, “He’s going to cleanse America and make it shine again. And, he’s going to start with you Muslims. He’s going to do to you Muslims what Hitler did to the Jews,” there isn’t a debate over whether this is hate speech.
Moreover, this sends a message that the community is not just going to sit by and allow one group or a number of vulnerable groups to get singled out. That is the biggest lesson of the holocaust – no one spoke out against the regime’s singling out of individuals until it was too late for people to act (and yes, given the content of the letter, the holocaust is the appropriate analogy here).
So why am I ambivalent here? A few points. First, I do believe that publicizing and overreacting to obnoxious but otherwise fairly benign incidents is more likely to encourage than discourage further incidents.
Second, the message sent back was a little over the top. Jeff Reisig stated, “As the District Attorney I simply want the community to know that we will vigorously investigate and prosecute all crimes that we can prove in this regard.”
Sheriff Prieto added that any complaint received by the Yolo County Sheriff’s Office “is going to be rigorously enforced and we will investigate every single complaint that we see.”
But, as Davis Police Chief Darren Pytel acknowledged, the letter that was sent does not represent a hate crime, as it does not have a specific and actionable threat against a group. Instead, it is classified as a hate incident. Which means – there is no ability for the police or law enforcement to vigorously investigate and prosecute, because there is no crime.
Finally, while I again think it was important for law enforcement and local leaders to respond, it is striking that those speaking at this event: Jeff Reisig, Ed Prieto, Darren Pytel, Robb Davis, Don Saylor, Jim Provenza, Carlos Matos and Hamza El-Nakhal were all males.
The optics of that is not great, but the intention of the press conference was good.
San Francisco, led by Public Defender Jeff Adachi, took the immediate lead in looking to provide legal services for those caught up in the immigration system. As we saw in the article last weekend, even legal immigrants can face lengthy proceedings without access to a bail hearing, legal representation, or due process of law.
All the legislation introduced this week seeks to do is to “strengthen due process rights and protections for undocumented residents should President-elect Trump pursue overly aggressive immigration enforcement actions.”
Is that unreasonable?
SB 6 by Senator Ben Hueso (D-San Diego) would create a state program to fund legal representation for those facing deportation. AB 3 by Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) would create state-funded regional centers to train defense attorneys and public defender’s offices on immigration law and the consequences of criminal convictions.
One poster wrote, “Do we really want to protect someone that sneaks into our country illegally and commits crimes?”
The real question is whether we believe that all people, regardless of status, are innocent until proven guilty – and have the right to due process to determine their immigration status.
The specific laws introduced here have nothing to do with “choosing which laws to obey and which to ignore.”
What this quickly became is an argument against other California policies already on the books. As one commenter argued, “Can you find anyone who believes they are not related?”
That would be me. I believe that we need to have due process of law, where people have to have representation funded by the government if we wish to remove them from the country or charge them with a crime.
Basically, we are setting up a public defense system for those people charged with immigration violations.
What people are effectively arguing is that having representation in a criminal matter is tantamount to condoning immigrants committing a crime. Most people believe that is ludicrous.
We can debate over what the proper policy should be for those who get to live in the US. We can debate over whether we should be cracking down on those living in this country without proper documentation. However, if we wish to crack down on those people – and I will clear, I am not in support of that – at the very least we should have a fair process just as we have for taking away people’s liberties through the criminal justice system.
That is all this legislation attempts to address and it seems quite reasonable.
—David M. Greenwald reporting