San Jose spotlight: Labor leaders condemn Sam Liccardo over stance on immigration

by Nadia Lopez
April 12, 2019

A band of top labor leaders Thursday signed onto a resolution condemning Mayor Sam Liccardo’s push to revise the county’s sanctuary city policy in the wake of the murder of a San Jose woman by an undocumented immigrant.

In the resolution, the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council executive board, Latinos United for a New America, Human Agenda and several organizations associated with the Santa Clara County FIRE Coalition such as SIREN, Silicon Valley De-Bug, Asian Law Alliance, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, People Acting in Community Together, Pangea Legal Services, YWCA Silicon Valley and Sacred Heart Community Service, expressed concern over Liccardo’s views claiming that it “perpetuates a stereotype that immigrants, particularly those of Latino descent, are dangerous criminals.”

“The community as a whole was frightened and upset, and he chose to demonstrate his leadership by politicizing this tragedy, versus bringing immigrants together,” said South Bay Labor Council spokeswoman Dianna Zamora Marroquin. “This is an issue about homelessness and mental health, but the mayor chose to make it about immigration.”

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to explore changes to the county’s sanctuary policy, a controversial move after more than 160 people flooded the meeting to speak out on the issue, many of whom were immigrants afraid that the change will affect their ability to stay in the U.S. Supervisor Susan Ellenberg cast the lone dissenting vote to make no changes to the policy for fear of targeting immigrants.

Ellenberg argued that the trust that immigrants have may be broken by the impact of this policy change and the policy may not “measurably improve public safety.”

“Let’s fix what’s broken instead of what works,” Ellenberg posted on Twitter. “Challenge is how we manage violent offenders whose actions are complicated by addiction or mental health illness.”

The resolution marks the first time that top labor leaders in the South Bay have grouped together to condemn a sitting mayor.

Among other statements, the original resolution said Liccardo’s comments “decrease public safety, vilify the immigrant community,” deny immigrants their “rights to due process,” and “falsely equates immigration with crime.”

In a revised version, signed by the three organizations, leaders softened the language but still condemned “the deceitful, damaging and demagogic statements” from Liccardo and called on the mayor to “immediately stop his demagoguery and instead seek to repair the damage to our community that he has done.”

According to Marroquin, a condemnation is rare and has never happened during her four years at the labor council.

“It’s the exception, not the rule,” Marroquin said. “The labor movement as a whole stands with immigrants, and is not willing to support demagogic statements.”

Liccardo did not respond to a request for comment on the condemnation Thursday.

In a Facebook post Tuesday, Liccardo addressed growing concerns over the change in policy, saying that “…they would apply only to violent criminals — not to our predominantly law-abiding immigrant community.”

Liccardo demanded changes to the county’s sanctuary city policy after the July 2015 murder of Kathryn Steinle and renewed his push in February after the brutal death of San Jose resident Bambi Larson, who was allegedly killed by an undocumented immigrant.

The mayor wrote a letter to Supervisor Dave Cortese in 2015 saying that “…any policy that hastens the release of predatory criminals makes us all less safe,” and that the county should view Steinle’s murder “as a wake-up call to craft a policy that reflects the triumph of pragmatism over the ideological extremes that too often shape the public debate around immigration.”

“I also want to assure our residents that I will continue supporting our immigrant community, and work to ensure everyone’s rights — regardless of their legal status — are protected,” Liccardo posted on Twitter.

“I approve these reasonable changes because they protect everyone in our city, including our immigrant community,” added Liccardo while speaking Spanish. “We should distinguish between criminals and the large majority of immigrants that do not commit violent crimes.”

But several labor leaders said Liccardo’s comments incite fear, hostility and violence toward immigrants.

“History has shown us that when it is a white person committing a crime, that individual person is blamed for their own actions,” Marroquin said. “But whenever it is a person of color, it again becomes a conversation about that person’s race. There’s a stereotype that continues to be perpetuated. The mayor’s statement perpetuates a stereotype — that immigrants are dangerous.”

Contact Nadia Lopez at [email protected] or follow @n_llopez on Twitter.