Tensions and passions flared during a rally and march in downtown San Bernardino on July 28 that called out San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon for his collaboration with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.
Organizers with the Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice, Inland Empire Immigrant Youth Collective, California Immigration Policy Center, National Day Labor Organizing Network, and SEIU assembled a group of about 150 people–marching from the SEIU Local 2015 headquarters to the Sheriff-Coroner’s office on 655 E. Third Street. Once there the group proceeded to chant, “McMahon listen, immigration is not your business”, as they blocked incoming traffic on both sides of the road.
“Sheriff McMahon is the biggest liar among every Sheriff in the State of California,” Hernandez exclaimed. “You turned over a U.S. citizen to ICE custody. Tell us why!”
McMahon’s department is facing backlash for reportedly detaining and then turning over 59-year-old Guadalupe Placencia of San Bernardino, a naturalized citizen, over to ICE custody. Placencia and her family are demanding ICE and the Sheriff’s department pay $200,000 in damages.
Hernandez said McMahon has failed to meet requests for meetings to discuss his opposition to the California Values Act (Senate Bill 54) and Placencia’s arrest. Introduced by state lawmakers earlier this year, SB 54 intends to bar local and state law enforcement from using their resources to assist in immigration enforcement.
McMahon explained his viewpoints on SB 54 in a YouTube interview in February. He believes the legislation–along with other restrictions–will result in the release of proven criminals putting citizens at risk.
“Those that are wanted by ICE, detained in our facilities, are dangerous criminals,” said McMahon. “It’s much safer for everybody involved if we could hand off that inmate to the custody of ICE, and they could continue through that process.”
Immigrant rights groups don’t buy into McMahon’s claims of his concerns for public safety. If they did, Hernandez believes, they would take into consideration the fears of undocumented immigrants.
“It’s an issue of public safety when our communities don’t trust those who are supposed to protect them,” Hernandez said. “These are [people] regardless of what crimes they have committed. They should not be separated from their children, from their families, and their partners.”
However, McMahon has expressed his desires to establish and maintain a trust with citizens, including immigrants. The Sheriff said the only time deputies ask about immigration status is when criminals are in custody.
“It’s very important to get the cooperation of citizens we serve and do the best we can to keep them all safe,” McMahon said. “We don’t want people to hesitate to report crime because agents will question immigration status.”
Before the end of the rally, Hernandez and Luis Nolasco of the ACLU of Southern California, walked to the entrance of the Sheriff’s station to ask to meet with McMahon. They were told by a deputy to schedule an appointment with executive staff.
At one point during the event, a man became visibly upset at demonstrators. “Work with ICE, work with them,” he yelled at the crowd.
Despite the edginess, there were no reports of violence during the rally; San Bernardino police officers thanked the groups for cooperating and keeping their actions respectable.