Couch's Corner - Nov. 7, 2019
Annual Civil Rights for Immigrants Conference
November 7, 2019 | View PDF
I got the chance to speak at the second Annual Civil Rights for Immigrants Conference recently in October at Hodel’s. It was an honor to be invited by the host, the Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance (GBLA), to welcome the attendees (about 280 people) from around the country. The following is the speech I prepared for that event.
“I wanted to thank you all for coming today to this very important conference. While immigration is a very divisive subject in our country right now, I contend it does not have to be in Kern County. I believe we agree more than we think. This conference is a great opportunity to learn.
Last year my staff and I attended this conference and I must admit it helped us in the District 4 Office to understand the complexity of issues and hopefully put us in a better position to serve our community. We learned a lot. As a County Supervisor, it helped.
My experience with immigration has been limited. I contend we agree more than we realize. Several years ago, I had a teacher friend who had a student who had fallen into a situation with ICE and was at risk of being deported. He had done nothing wrong, was a good student/athlete, so I spoke with our Congressman and soon that individual was removed from ICE custody and was taken off the deportation list. He was not the kind of person ICE needs to focus on, in my opinion.
I believe we’ve done a lot in the last year to improve dialogue. For instance, in follow up to the initial conference last year, we met with GBLA, ACLU, UFWF and others - to discuss the TRUTH Forum – a new forum designed to get public input on Kern County Sheriff’s Office interaction with ICE.
For my part, as the Chair of the Board this year, I wanted to make sure we had two TRUTH Forums, one during the day and one at night, to give more people a chance to share their concerns. Little steps. Our office worked hard to make sure that your Sheriff’s Office and County Counsel met with these groups as well, and I am pleased to say the dialogue between our office, the County, the Sheriff’s Office and the community improved as a result of those forums and meetings.
Recently, I met with Congressman Cox, and he explained to me a bill being pushed through Congress, called the “Blue Card Bill,” that creates the framework for agricultural workers to enter and work in this country legally. It’s a law Kern County needs, because we need farmworkers, and our workers need a legal framework to enter and to work. It’s a little step - it’s not comprehensive immigration reform. It’s just one piece of the puzzle but in this day and age, taking little steps might be our best strategy toward broader immigration reform.
There’s still a lot to do and more steps to take. We’ve learned that some folks in the community are frightened, they are afraid to call the Sheriff when a crime is being committed. We’ve tried to encourage Neighborhood Watch programs and they’ve even declined that. We understand folks are afraid to seek help that can assist them with hunger, education and health.
As your Supervisor, this concerns me greatly, as our actions today will determine to a large part what happens tomorrow. We have to keep working to build trust. We all have to be healthy for our community to be healthy.
In closing, I want to discuss redistricting for a moment. What I’ve learned is that we are all so similar and basically we all want the same things. The family in Haggin Oaks and the family in Delano or Lamont and the other communities of District 4 want their roads repaired, their schools, streets and neighborhoods safe, their families healthy, opportunity to do better, their parks green and clean and their lives filled with hope. We all want the same things.”
Any questions? Contact our office at 661-868-3680 or at [email protected]