Organizers of the Southside Multicultural Community Celebration in October are worried that the event creates an opportunity for immigration enforcement and racial violence, and they want to know what city officials can do to prevent that.
Underneath the high ceilings and gently swinging yellow Zia flag at the Zona del Sol building on Jaguar Drive, Mayor Alan Webber, District 3 Councilors Chris Rivera and Roman “Tiger” Abeyta, Santa Fe Public Schools Superintendent Veronica Garcia and several members of the city’s immigration committee met with members of Earth Care and other Santa Fe community organizations who wanted clarification on what living in a so-called sanctuary city really provides them and how the city and school district plans to protect the Hispanic and Latino communities.
Miguel Acosta, co-founder of Earth Care, says the idea to invite city and district officials to the meeting came up as more people raised fears about hosting a cultural event after the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas.
“The [Santa Fe] Dreamers movement has been about being undocumented and unafraid but when we were having our conversation, both organizations and schools didn’t feel comfortable saying we’ll have an event. Part of it was to have this conversation so people feel more informed to move forward. The questions are out there,” Acosta told SFR.
Santa Fe’s governing body has passed two resolutions, in 1999 and in 2017, vowing to protect undocumented residents from ICE by limited cooperation with the agency.
A representative from the city’s immigration committee called the resolutions the “best confidentiality” agreement “in the country” and that they work with the police to make sure law enforcement follows the city’s protocols and does not work with ICE. But she also reiterated that there is no such thing as “100% sanctuary.”
According to Acosta, while the community groups have been meeting over the last several weeks to plan for the cultural event, individuals and groups raised concerns about how safe it would be for Latino and Hispanic people to gather together publicly.
Mayor Alan Webber told the crowd Thursday that police officers would be keeping an eye out on the internet and social media for “manifestos” but that city and law enforcement needed the help of “everybody in this room” to report people and organizations that seemed threatening.
Santa Fe Public Schools also do not allow ICE agents to access the campuses without a warrant, but District Superintendent Veronica Garcia said that each family needs to have a plan in place in case undocumented parents are arrested by ICE agents and children are unexpectedly left alone.
According to Garcia, the district is aware of about 50 students who are recent asylees or came through the detention centers at the border and may be living with distant relatives instead of their parents in the city. Schools are providing "wrap around services" for these students, including school supplies and clothing, she said.
At the end of the meeting, Webber, Abeyta and Rivera all committed to having regular monthly gatherings on the Southside.
However, whether or not the Southside organizers and residents feel safe enough to hold the October Southside Multicultural Community Celebration is still unclear, but Acosta tells SFR that “we hope so” and that the Thursday meeting was also to try and establish regular, more informal meetings with city officials.
“The strategy from community-based organizations has always been not to hide, make sure families know their rights and the risks and then they make decisions about whether to come out or not to a gathering,” Acosta says. “We’ll keep moving forward with the plan.”
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