Napa County issued a ringing endorsement of immigrants at a time when Trump Administration immigration policies are causing dismay in some quarters, but the county stopped short of declaring any new policies.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Alfredo Pedroza read the seven-paragraph document before a packed chamber. He said Napa County aspires “to be a model for inclusion and equity for all populations, including immigrants, refugees and other newcomers.”
County supervisors on Tuesday presented the proclamation to Melissa Patrino, executive director of Puertas Abiertas, a Latino resource center. Mayors from all five of the county’s cities stood next to Pedroza.
“It is important for our leadership to make a statement of support to the immigration community and for our county to be a place of trust and safety for immigrants who live and work in our communities,” the proclamation said.
Vanessa Robledo with the My American DREAMs foundation, told supervisors her family came to Napa County four generations ago as migrant workers. Her great-grandfather and grandfather lived in a Christian Brothers camp in Calistoga.
She’s dedicated her life to the wine industry. Owners and growers are nothing without the workers, she said.
“Their passion and what they are able to contribute to the industry — you cannot have a bottle of wine without recognizing the labor that it took to make that bottle of wine,” she said. “Every drop is precious because of what they contribute and who they are.”
Graciela Rodriguez said she knows undocumented residents who no longer feel safe from deportation. She is a social worker who is now finding herself doing more than helping people who feel anxious because a family death or a divorce.
“Now I’m being invited to the families to have that difficult conversation of, ‘If mommy gets deported, this is what you need to do the next day,’ ” Rodriguez said. “I will say it is very, very difficult to have those conversations.”
Nobody came to the microphone to criticize the proclamation or support Trump Administration immigration policies that call for taking such steps as building a border wall.
Pedroza was a driving force behind the proclamation.
“My dad came from Mexico in the 1970s,” Pedroza said. “For his son to be before you today to read these words — it is truly a privilege and an honor.”
Supervisor Belia Ramos said her father came as an immigrant from Mexico more than 45 years ago and built a life in Napa County.
“It’s a really proud moment for me to be able to see all the support that is here before the Board,” she said.
Calistoga Mayor Chris Canning said that, although Calistoga has not declared itself a sanctuary city, it has for a decade followed the practices of a sanctuary city. He didn’t elaborate.
The term “sanctuary city” is broad, but generally means a city or county limits its cooperation with federal immigration officials. President Trump wants to strip federal grant money from sanctuary cities.
“Sanctuary jurisdictions across the United States willfully violate federal law in an attempt to shield aliens from removal from the United States,” a Jan. 25 Trump executive order said. “These jurisdictions have caused immeasurable harm to the American people and to the very fabric of our Republic.”
But a different mood prevailed in the Board of Supervisors chamber.
“As I say to people in Calistoga, if you’re going to be a person of questionable immigration situation or documentation, the best place to be is the state of California in the county of Napa in the city of Calistoga,” Canning said to applause.
Pedroza after the ceremony said Napa County doesn’t need to declare itself a sanctuary county and its cities don’t need to declare themselves sanctuary cities.
“That’s in our DNA to take care of people,” he said.
Napa County in 2014 said its jail won’t hold undocumented immigrants beyond their release dates at the request of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) without a court order. That followed federal court rulings that the holds are not mandatory.
The Napa Valley Community Foundation in 2012 released a study called “Profile of Immigrants in Napa County.” It estimated Napa County had about 10,500 unauthorized immigrants, about one-third of the local immigrant population. The Public Policy Institute of California put the number at 12,000 to 16,000.
“This report makes it clear that one key to Napa County’s future lies with immigrants and their children,” the report said. “Without these populations, the county’s workforce would shrink and economic activity would be reduced.”