Government / Politics

LULAC hosts immigration forum

Speakers encouraged those with questions to not be afraid to ask
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Community members filled the Hollister Community Center on Saturday, Feb.4, to hear from elected officials, educators, and local law enforcement in an immigration forum hosted by The San Benito County League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and Congressman Jimmy Panetta.

The meeting comes after news that ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) recently relocated some resources, including an enforcement and removal operations sub-office, from San Jose to Morgan Hill and recent immigration policies set forth by President Donald Trump and his administration that has spread fear among undocumented individuals. 

LULAC president Cesar Flores served as moderator and an interpreter was provided for those who were Spanish-only speakers. 

Panetta addressed the audience, saying, “I think that this is great that you’re all coming together for this. There’s a lot of confusion not only in Hollister but also in D.C. We need to do what we know best and that is to come together as a community.”

Hollister Police Chief David Westrick and Sheriff's Captain Eric Taylor also spoke at the forum. 

Westrick said HPD would continue to protect citizens regardless of their immigration status. In a Friday Facebook post a day before the immigration forum, Westrick said that despite any federal action on immigration enforcement, "nothing has changed in how we conduct business. An executive order does not change the law. It is a directive to federal employees and facilities. Our mission is to assist / protect people and their property. Immigration status has not been ever part of the equation for municipal law enforcement." 

At the Saturday forum, Taylor said, “We focus on those who are a danger to us, regardless of their immigration status. We treat everyone the same.”

Krystal Lomanto, the county superintendent of schools, and San Benito High School Principal Adrian Ramirez addressed students and parents.

Lomanto said, “Our job is to protect our students in our campuses. We want our students to feel safe so that when they leave our community they can reach their goals regardless of their immigration status.”

District 30 Assemblywoman Anna Caballero, who made a last-minute appearance, addressed the audience in Spanish saying, “Vamos a proteger a nuestros immigrantes. Que quede la idea que vamos a ser todo lo possible para proteger a nuestra comunidad.” (“We will protect our immigrants. We will do everything possible to protect our community.”)

Hollister City Councilwoman and LULAC leader Mickie Luna posted on Facebook after the event her thanks to attendees "for responding to the call of the immigrant community of San Benito County." She noted that the guests included former California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso and lauded him and Panetta "for their words of encouragement in assuring our community is a safe community for immigrants."

Luna also said the LULAC "appreciates the concern and support from our local elected officials who attended," including county supervisors Robert Rivas and Mark Medina, Gavilan College trustees Rachel Perez and Lois Locci, Hartnell College board member David Serena, Elizabeth Zepeda of the UFW Foundation, "community leaders Gordon Machado, Aurelio Zuniga, Elvira Robinson, and many more community members, students and parents."

She said LULAC hopes to have another community meeting "to respond to the many questions that were presented today to our community leaders."

Luna added: "Stay Positive! San Benito County and City of Hollister Stay LOUD! Our legislators are with us, Federal- State- Local.  We will be the strongest when working together and supporting each other. 

Laura Romero

Laura Romero has been a reporter and handled marketing/social media for BenitoLink. She has covered education and city government. Formerly, she worked as an assistant account executive at Pembroke PR in San Francisco, where she assisted with press outreach, event coordination, and social media planning. With her PR skills, she has helped to implement social media strategies and develop online giving campaigns for BenitoLink. Laura continues to contribute to BenitoLink on a freelance basis.