A. Garcia / SFVS

San Fernando Restaurant Owner Pledges Support for the Undocumented

Banners of all types and colors — even one with the Lady of Guadalupe — flanked the entrance to the “Los Camarones Tacos Mariscos” restaurant along Pico Street in the City of San Fernando last week.

“Build Bridges Not Walls. Stop Donald Trump,” read one.

“Legalization,” screamed another.

“Gran March” (Big March), was spelled out on small signs carried by about a dozen immigration activists and supporters who showed up here not to savor the seafood and Mexican delicacies at the eatery, but highlight the owner’s support of SB54, the “California Sanctuary” bill and immigrant causes.

“Here, all people are welcomed,” said Elena Ruiz, the restaurant owner. “We were also immigrants. My husband and I came to the United States for a better life for our kids.”

Ruiz and her husband, both natives of Mexico, came to the US several years ago and through hard work are now the proud owners of their business. But they don’t forget their roots or what it feels like to be an immigrant.

That’s why Ruiz has pledged her support for a state law that prevents local law enforcement agencies from cooperating with federal immigration authorities on raids and other operations.

The business owners are declaring their restaurants as “sanctuary” a symbolic gesture of offering refuge to their undocumented immigrant patrons and workers from immigration raids and operations.

They are vowing that unless immigration agents have a search warrant, they won’t let them into their establishments.

Why symbolic? Because this is not an official designation and they are simply doing it voluntarily.

And it’s also a rebuke to what is going on in the state against SB54, the state law that made the entire state of California a “sanctuary”, meaning that local police can not cooperate with ICE.

“We have to stay united against the immigration raids,” Ruiz said.


Support and Defiance

SB545 was hailed by pro-immigrant activists, but some cities and even Orange and San Diego counties have decided to defy the law by joining a Department of Justice lawsuit against California for its “sanctuary” policy.

Opponents of the measure signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown last year, after much debate and adjustments, claim it hurts public safety. It was the tiny city of Los Alamitos in Orange County that first challenged the law and then nearly a dozen cities have joined in the challenge.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) recently filed a lawsuit against the city of Los Alamitos over its position.

Attempts to repeal the law that went into effect on Jan. 1 have led to immigrant activists asking business owners like Ruiz and others to declare their businesses as “sanctuaries” in support of those in the country without documents.

“If they bring the right documents they will be given access, otherwise they won’t be able to come in,” Juan Ramirez Perez, owner of the “Rinconcito del Mar” restaurant in Boyle Heights, said earlier this month after declaring his place such a sanctuary.

Perez has lived in the United States for 46 years. He said he simply does not understand [the backlash] and fears today’s anti-immigrant climate.

“I’ve never seen such discrimination against Hispanics,” he noted.

But neither Ruiz nor Perez are directly affected by the immigration raids that have become more prevalent since President Donald Trump came into power and that are spreading fear in the undocumented population. Both are legal citizens.

That’s not the case for Inocencia Torres, an undocumented woman from Puebla, Mexico, who knows this fear firsthand.

“I like the sanctuary movement because it’s to help us and protect us,” she said. 

“It helps us feel a little bit safer. But it’s not enough. We need more support from other businesses. We’re simply here to provide food for our kids and to help our families,” Torres noted, adding that’s the message she hopes to stress in this year’s May 1 marches.

“A few of us can’t make our voices heard. We need the support of many more people for them (the government) to see that we’re not alone.”

Immigrant Marches

In what has now become a tradition since nearly a million people took to the streets of Los Angeles in 2006, immigrant activists and supporters are once again preparing to march on May 1 (International Workers Day)— this year to defend SB54, denounce immigrant raids and advocate for workers’ rights.

“Together We Fight Back,” is the theme of the 2018 marches that will start from different points in downtown Los Angeles.

“Whether it is workers in the public or private sector, mixed-status families speaking out against cruel and unjust raids, or communities exercising their right to vote, we stand united in protecting the contributions of working families and fighting this administration’s far-right, racist, xenophobic, and anti-immigrant agenda,” said Rusty Hicks, president of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO.

As is also customary, there will be different marches, starting from different points, but all ending up in the same place – Grand Park.

A coalition of unions and immigrant groups will start at noon from Pershing Square at the corner of Sixth and Olive streets.“This is a moment when the person in the White House wants to shut our voices and we can’t be intimated,” said Maria Cibrian of SEIU Local 2015, one of the unions participating in that demonstration.

Another group plans to begin walking from the now well-known intersection of Olympic Boulevard and Broadway Street starting at 1:30 p.m. In this demonstration, the main point is to defend SB54.

“The majority of the voting population in the State of California supports SB54. California’s ‘sanctuary’ law is a significant step by our government to defend the economic progress we’ve achieved since we went through our last economic depression”, stated Juan Jose Gutierrez, a member of the Full Rights For Immigrants Coalition.

“We could not have achieved our economic power without the hard work and the taxes paid by immigrant workers. In recognition of immigrants’ contributions to the wealth of this state, and of the country, we will take to the streets on May First and remind the nation it is time for the US Congress to legislate a clear path to achieve comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship,” he concluded.

“We are very concerned about the ongoing mass incarceration and deportation of thousands of immigrant workers. These inhuman deportations are dividing immigrant families where there are many US born children,” added Alicia Flores, executive director of the Hank Lacayo Community Center in Ventura County and part of this group.

“At a time when our nation is more divided than ever, the last things we need are ongoing actions to try and undo SB-54 that will only further polarize our divided populations. President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions are making a big mistake going after our great state’s economic progress and one of the country’s permanent assets; that is, its immigrant population,”, Flores said.

Yet another group, under the same theme, plans to hold a protest at 4:30 p.m. at Olvera Street.

“May First is a Workers’ Day and the workers are the immigrants who are going to fight to stay together in this country with happiness and tranquility and to keep fighting for an immigration reform, a legalization for everyone,” said Gloria Saucedo of Centro México in Panorama City.


May Day Marches

Here are some planned events for Worker’s Day on Tuesday, May 1

Poster-making before marches

10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the downtown UCLA Labor Center, located at 675 S. Park View Street in Los Angeles. RSVP is required. Visit labor.ucla.edu.

March in downtown Los Angeles, noon to 3 p.m., from Pershing Square to the LAPD Detention Center. Hosted by WSRJB Workers United-SEIU, CHIRLA, and 11 others.

March in downtown Los Angeles, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., from McArthur Park to Los Angeles City Hall. Hosted by Union del Barrio and various other community organizations.

source: UCLA Labor Center