Over the Hill

On both sides, Paso Robles' 'sanctuary state' debate is about one thing: fear

Paso Robles residents debate immigration, ‘sanctuary state’ law

Attendees at a Paso Robles City Council meeting discuss immigration and SB 54, California's "sanctuary state" law on Tuesday, May 1, 2018. More than 70 speakers addressed the council, some in support of SB 54 and others against it.
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Attendees at a Paso Robles City Council meeting discuss immigration and SB 54, California's "sanctuary state" law on Tuesday, May 1, 2018. More than 70 speakers addressed the council, some in support of SB 54 and others against it.

This column is about fear: fear of strangers, and fear of foreigners. I was prompted to write this column by three articles that appeared in the Tribune on April 19, May 1 and May 3. They were about a law declaring California to be a “sanctuary state” for foreigners.

On April 19 the Tribune reported that the “sanctuary state” designation upset some people, who then urged the Paso Robles City Council to help get it repealed. The Tribune reported, “Residents lobbied the City Council to act, saying they’re ‘under attack’ and facing an ‘illegal alien invasion.’” That sounds like fear.

The California “sanctuary state” law is Senate Bill 54 or SB 54 for short. It took effect last October. It forbids local police and sheriff’s officers from helping federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to deport people. It also forbids police and sheriff’s officers from asking anyone about their immigration status.

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Paso Robles High School students hold a banner that reads "I support Bearcats with a dream." The students joined other residents at a City Council meeting on Tuesday, May 1, 2018, where officials discussed California's "sanctuary state" law. Lindsey Holden lholden@thetribunenews.com

The people who fear and oppose SB 54 are afraid it could allow dangerous criminals to go free and become threats to them and their loved ones.

By the way, SB 54 does include a couple of exceptions. Local law officers may cooperate with ICE when it is dealing with suspects who have been convicted of or charged with serious violent crimes. SB 54 is a strengthened version of a similar bill passed in 2013.

But some people don’t fear SB 54. One of them is Paso Robles police Cmdr. Ty Lewis, who will become police chief on July 15. He said violent crime in Paso Robles has declined since 2012. That was one year before an earlier version of SB 54 took effect. The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting database shows Paso Robles had 91 violent crimes in 2012 and only 67 in 2016.

The most recent Paso Robles City Council action on SB 54 was taken at the May 1 council meeting. The Tribune reported on May 3 that all the audience seats at the May 1 meeting were occupied. People also stood in the rear and along the sidewalls. Other people had to make do with a loudspeaker in the lobby.

According to the Tribune report, fear was also present. It was expressed by many of the 70-plus people who spoke for an estimated three and a half hours. One speaker said she’s a student in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, better known as DACA. She said she is hurt when people refer to her family as invaders. Another student said she’s afraid her mother could be deported.

Fear was also expressed by opponents of the sanctuary state. One man said, “What we’re talking about here is violent criminal illegal aliens.” Another man said the government’s actions are “spitting in the faces of law-abiding, taxpaying legal citizens."

About that same time, the U.S. Census Bureau’s World Population Clock was reporting that more than 7. 47 billion humans now live on Earth and that number is steadily increasing. When I was born in 1930 the Earth’s population was just 2 billion.

How much longer can the human race multiply and survive?

Phil Dirkx’s column is special to the Tribune. He has lived in Paso Robles for more than five decades, and his column appears every other week. Reach Dirkx at 805-238-2372 or phild2008@sbcglobal.net.
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