This November, voters in Humboldt County will have the opportunity to vote for Measure K, the Sanctuary Initiative. This simple proposal will assure that local resources are dedicated to local law enforcement rather than national scapegoating political agendas. Community members gathered thousands of signatures from our neighbors to put the Sanctuary Initiative on the ballot because we want everyone who lives and works in Humboldt County to feel welcome, safe, and considered equal members of our community.
We also want to have a truthful, honest discussion about this issue. Unfortunately, some county officials resistant to change appear to have gone out of their way to mislead the public. At the Board of Supervisors meeting on September 4, the county administration presented an estimate of annual costs for implementing Measure K. But the numbers are ridiculously exaggerated.
First, these numbers were presented as if the county will have to write a check for $171,000 to $310,000 each year. But the staff hours represented are part of a fixed cost system which has to integrate new laws passed locally, in Sacramento, and in Washington. If the simple provisions of Measure K would cost that much to “train” for and implement annually, there are so many laws passed on a regular basis with requirements much more onerous and the county budget would go to nothing else.
Measure K is actually a very simple proposed law which merely enhances the minimum standard of protections created by SB 54 (California’s Sanctuary law), the California Trust Act, and other laws.
Measure K adds three basic points to SB54. First, it prevents county social workers from actively attempting to keep families of deported parents separated. Keeping families together is a fundamental value. Second, it helps protect due process for everyone and avoids painful mistakes, by eliminating exemptions for past convictions in SB54. Sheriff Honsal admits these would have applied to three individuals over the past three years).
Measure K also establishes protocols for arrests made in the very infrequent event that ICE requests action on a court-issued warrant (protocols Sheriff Honsal says he already follows for arrests in most circumstances),. Everything else in the measure is already made law by SB54.
Our second objection to the cost report is that unlike every other ballot measure cost analysis, it contains no analysis of offsetting savings Measure K would bring, such as avoidance of lawsuits from separated parents, or the costs of training for joint task forces with the deportation force. No offsets reported whatsoever, while County Counsel based its estimates of costs on anticipated lawsuits from disgruntled employees disciplined for somehow violating the ordinance and lawsuits from people wrongfully deported. The report is completely one-sided – focusing on costs which are purely speculative, while ignoring savings which are inevitable.
Of course, by far the largest item of estimated cost comes from the sheriff, who has opposed Measure K from the beginning. He estimates an annual $85,000 to $130,000 in costs for “tracking and reporting.” There are three paragraphs which address these requirements. The first paragraph calls for an initial report about detentions made solely for suspected civil immigration violations and then requires the sheriff and probation departments to make the following semi-annual reports:
(a) a description of all communications received from the federal agency charged with enforcement of the Federal immigration law, including but not limited to the number of civil immigration detainers, notification requests, or other types of communications.
(b) a description of any communications the department made to the federal agency charged with enforcement of the federal immigration law, including but not limited to any department’s responses to inquires as described herein.”
That’s it. That’s what’s in Measure K for “tracking and reporting.” Basically, the sheriff is required to “track and report” his own communications with ICE.
Contrary to what the sheriff apparently told a Times-Standard reporter, there is no requirement to track ICE’s activities in Humboldt County. The sheriff repeatedly says that he has contacted ICE only three times over the past three years. He claims to receive requests from ICE (which he says he ignores) about once a week. His office’s responsibility therefor is to log these communications and write a semi-annual report. If this is going to take $85,000 to $130,000 in staff hours, then he really needs to hire someone who can type a little bit faster.
Any other tracking and reporting requirements are already mandated by state law and has no bearing on Measure K.
Please note, that the Probation Department, which would have identical requirements, estimated its annual cost at $1250 to $2,500 for the two reports.
We are not understanding the excessive amount of money estimated to make sure the ordinance is being honored. Nor the DHHS numbers, and please note that the representative at the BOS meeting stated that their numbers would be lower had they known that the sheriff has only made three detentions over three years to which Measure K might apply. But if DHHS is going to expend staff hours to reunify families, we believe that is money worth spending.
Lastly, the estimates of $7,500 to $15,000 per year for the Human Rights Commission are just silly. Its job would be to receive complaints of Measure K violations (hopefully would be extremely rare), take statements from each party involved, and prepare a report for the board. It does not require that a hearing be held – the statements could be in writing. It does not require that the HRC make findings, or even recommendations to the board. It does not even require that the board act on the complaint. The whole point of the HRC involvement is to generate a Brown Act and other sunshine-protected paper trail so that the public can be aware of the complaint and any action taken on it. If the HRC lacks the resources to perform this minimal task, then it is seriously underfunded and is merely a ceremonial exercise. If that is the case, the county should address the fact rather than oppose anything which would call upon the HRC to actually do something.
The proponents of Measure K worked hard to obtain over 5,600 signatures to put it onto the ballot and bring the discussion to the Humboldt community. It is unfair of county staff and certain supervisors to undermine meaningful discussion of a measure which is intended to support the thousands of immigrants who live here and the health and safety of everyone in the county.
We hope that in the future, county officials will avoid using official letterhead for blatant and misleading campaign purposes.
Emely Velez, Eric V. Kirk and Renee Saucedo are part of the Yes on Measure K campaign.