After hearing hours of public comments at last week’s Delano city council meeting, the council voted against the addition of a national motto and tabled an issue that would make the city a sanctuary city.
Residents filled the chamber, filling every seat. During the four-hour meeting, residents shared their opinions about Mayor Joe Aguirre’s resolution to make “In God We Trust” the official city motto.
“I wanted to make sure that this resolution was historically accurate because our nation has a very rich heritage in biblical principles,” said Pastor David Vivas. “The sentiment of ‘In God We Trust’ has been an integral part of United States society since its founding, so what I encourage in this resolution is for us to recognize the historical aspect of ‘In God We Trust.’”
The council tied with a 2 to 2 vote on adding “In God We Trust” as the city motto. It did not pass.
Delano isn’t the first city to make a decision on the topic. The Bakersfield City Council and Kern County Sheriff’s Office have both decided to place “In God We Trust” decals on law enforcement vehicles. Tehachapi is also set to vote on the issue at its next city council meeting on Aug. 5.
“This is not a violation of the separation of church and state,” Vivas said. “Separation of church and state is not one time mentioned in our United States Constitution. This has been an argument that has been formulated by those who have probably never read or studied the Constitution.”
However, not all Delano residents agreed with the motto.
“A city motto should be inclusive of all residents, not just the ones who worship the way you do,” said Estevan Ramirez, a Cesar Chavez High School teacher who was against the motto. “Exclusive slogans don’t give people hope or create opportunity; inclusive leadership does.”
“Today is your opportunity to continue promoting diversity and inclusiveness in Delano by voting no on making this the official city motto,” said Ramirez.
The council also addressed Bryan Osorio’s resolution to make Delano a sanctuary city. Before the council decided to table the issue, many community members, again, spoke on the topic.
“I’m one hundred percent against it,” said Monte Harrelson, a Delano resident, “Then you’ve got people in here that are criminals that are being protected within our city limits when ICE comes in. Wait until somebody in here loses a child or something to an illegal alien that’s a bad person and doesn’t belong here in the United States.”
Angelica Rodriguez, a Delano resident and UC Berkeley alumni, spoke on the issue as it relates to many undocumented people in Delano living in fear.
“In this case what are you doing to improve the quality of lives of those in this community who living in fear,” Rodriguez asked the council. “A fear that follows immigrants, both documented and undocumented, wherever they go, whether it’s to work, the grocery store, or to these amenities that you are so proud to provide.”
After another hour and a half of debate and comments over Osorio’s resolution, the council decided to table the resolution for the next city council meeting that is scheduled for Aug. 5.
“I’m hoping for the best at the next city council meeting when the item is brought up. However, given the concerns brought forth by certain council members, it seems they will vote in favor of ‘public safety’ dollars rather than in the public safety of our immigrant community,” said Osorio.
Some of those concerns were that the resolution might be “premature”, according to Joe Alindajao.
One concern from Grace Vallejo is the resolution might not be under SB-54 laws. Mayor Aguirre’s biggest concern is it would lead to a loss of federal grant money.
“Nonetheless, I want our immigrant community to know that our city’s police department will not cooperate with Immigration Customs Enforcement, and that the push for pro-immigrant policies does not stop with the vote that takes place on August 5th,” said Osorio.
He continued, “After hearing the public support for the sanctuary city resolution, especially from the young people, I am reassured that our communities are being heard and will be truly represented in the meetings to come.”
South Kern Sol is a youth-led journalism organization in Kern County. In their stories, reporters shine light on health and racial disparities in under-served communities across Kern. For more stories by South Kern Sol, head to southkernsol.org.