ICE Out of Ventura! Dozens of Community Members Gather in Ventura to Demand the End of the Sheriff’s Cooperation with ICE.
By: Miguel Hernandez
(Listen to our audio in Spanish and Mixteco (Gudalupe Nundaca Variant), 8 minutes)
Dozens of community members gathered in Ventura’s Government Center on November 7 to demand the Sheriff of Ventura to halt cooperation with Immigration. Speakers took the stage at the community forum required by the Transparent Review of Unjust Transfers and Holds or TRUTH Act. Since 2018, the act mandates that at least one forum be hosted if law enforcement has given ICE access to an individual in the past year. The meeting is meant to share information with the public and for people of the community to voice their opinions and concerns. Several of these community speakers revealed how the act of the Sherrif cooperating with immigration agencies is an act of political violence and cruelty.
One of these speakers was community organizer Jacqueline Gabriel, from the Mixteco Indigenous Community Organizing Project (MICOP), who shared how she lost a family member due to this cooperation and was forever scarred. She shared, “It caused a very difficult dynamic and completely unimaginable pain in not being able to see a family for so many long years. I can’t even imagine what a small child would feel and the difficult process they have to go through when one of their parents is snatched from them.”
Gabriel’s testimony was a clear example of how the cooperation between the police force and immigration creates mistrust between community members and the police. This distrust between the community and the police was later testified to cause crime levels to actually rise, as one speaker shared how she was a victim of domestic violence, but her abuser was an immigrant and therefore did not feel morally capable of contacting the police.
Nicolette Walker-Itza, a community speaker, commented, “I did not report because my partner was undocumented. I knew my decision to report had bigger repercussions,” she said. “Even though I wanted the abuse to stop, I couldn’t report in good conscience knowing he would be taken to ICE.”
The moral argument over whether law enforcement agencies should cooperate with Immigration is not a debate that cannot be resolved. Other counties, such as Sonoma, Napa, Sacramento, Contra Costa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Alameda, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Monterey, San Bernardino, Riverside, Los Angeles and San Diego, already have processes banning cooperation with Immigration.
For Ventura County, this relationship is specifically problematic since, according to the U.S. Census, 44 percent of Ventura County’s population is Latinx. Speakers shared that their relationship with immigration is one tainted by generations of trauma and fear. The relationship between Latinxs and immigration is one that has historically been disastrous for the Latinx community. U.S. Customs and Border Protection represents the historic displacement and oppression of communities of color.
Anastacio Espinoza, a MICOP community organizer, further questioned the rationale of deporting people who are native to this land.
Espinoza shared, “You came to the Americas, you came to our lands. We did not draw the line; you drew the line. We did not deport you, and why do you deport our communities.”
Deputy Sheriff Jose Rivera spoke in place of Ventura Sheriff Jim Fryhoff and discussed his department’s interactions with immigration. Rivera shared how, in 2022, 144 notifications were made to Immigration about prisoners who qualified for deportation, which resulted in 15 deportations.
Community speakers later mentioned that the reality is that not just 15 people were affected, but 15 families, 15 generations, and an entire community. The fight to stop police agencies from cooperating with immigration agencies has been part of a larger fight over home security and political justice for immigrant communities.