Delano becomes first city in Kern to declare itself a sanctuary city

August 14, 2019 /

Delano became the first city in Kern County to declare itself a sanctuary city after the city council voted to approve a resolution at the Aug. 5 meeting.

The resolution received much opposition during the previous city council meeting, but this time it was received with a 4 to 1 vote from the council with Mayor Joe Aguirre being the only one to oppose.

“We are now making sure that we are becoming involved in supporting SB-54 with this resolution,” said Councilmember Grace Vallejo. “We shouldn’t stand by and be idle on anything that addresses our citizens. Whether it’s this particular issue or any issue.”

Previous to the city adopting the sanctuary resolution, the elementary and high school districts had decided to adopt their own resolutions in 2016 and 2017 to declare schools a safe haven for undocumented students and their families. 

A few weeks before the resolution was discussed, the Delano Police Department had also released a statement on Facebook saying the department would not assist Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in accordance to Senate Bill 54, or the California Values Act.

Many residents have expressed their concerns to both the Delano Police Department and to the city council in regards to the culture of fear that exists in their community and the need for accountability. Community members say the adoption of the resolution is the first a step in the right direction.

“As a son of immigrants, I wholeheartedly support the sanctuary resolution because it gives our residents some peace of mind and sense that our city cares about them,” said Oscar Camacho, a Delano resident. “I have personally seen how divided our community was during the last two meetings — some being receptive and others being opposed. I feel like those who are opposed have huge misconceptions about what the term ‘sanctuary city’ actually means and what the resolution ultimately does.”

Some, including former Delano City Mayor Steve Kinsey, were strongly against the passing of the resolution.

“I know there is a fear amongst the immigrant community, but I do not see this resolution changing that,” said Kinsey. “It doesn’t have any factor in how we participate with ICE or how we treat our people in our community.”

Mayor Aguirre made his position clear and stated that he did not agree with the message the resolution would send to the immigrant community and that he believed the resolution was deceptive.

After some discussion, Councilmember Joe Alindajao suggested the removal of the last clauses and the council voted on the motion to adopt the edited version.

Prior to the adoption of the resolution, it was edited. The original resolution called for more proactive actions from the city, such as making informational material accessible to the community in city buildings and being more inclusive with policy and outreach. This was left out of the adopted resolution.

Removing those suggestions cleared the city of any misinterpretation or liability. To the proponents, the edit erased a lot of the purpose of the resolution, which was to promote the education of the undocumented community on their rights and to set a foundation for more inclusivity and acceptance for the undocumented and immigrant population in Delano.

Instead the resolution became, as Alindajao described, “completely symbolic”.

Still, Councilman Bryan Osorio accepted the changes.

“Symbolism offers hope, and within hope, it sparks a light within a movement of litigation, advocacy, and future projects,” Osorio said.

Although the complete resolution did not pass, Osorio hopes to continue educating and advocating for the immigrant community.

In the meantime, Osorio will continue to coordinate a community town hall on Aug. 24 to discuss what it means for Delano to be a sanctuary city and to offer a “know-your-rights” training.

“At the end of the day, the resolution allows Delano to be formally declared as a sanctuary city,” Osorio said. “So far, after going out into the community and letting them know about the townhall, we’ve received far more support and gratitude than either opposition or apathy.”

He continued to say, “We’re seeing the consequences we hoped to see on people’s faces, but now it’s about the next steps we take as a community to continue showing solidarity with the immigrant community here in Delano and in Kern County.”