On June 20, 2023, Taft City Council allowed council member Carlos Chavira to make a six-minute speech following public comments. Within those minutes he made several statements that can be seen as threatening towards the indigenous, undocumented, and migrant populations.
“All of our ancestors come from a different country, we all had to follow a process of becoming a citizen. My wife is a Canadian citizen, and I stood by her side as an American soldier making sure that she became a citizen because she wanted to benefit from what this country had to offer. We recently had some agencies come and visit our community, and it’s their responsibility not only to come and visit our community but all American communities to protect us,” Chavira stated during his speech.
Chavira continued, “If you want to take advantage like my wife and our ancestors of this country, and feel safe here, and enjoy all the benefits, become a citizen… Dennise’s wife, they all became citizens, and they walk in this community with pride. They walk throughout this community knowing nothing is going to happen to them because they’re following the laws.”
The comments given by Chavira discussed the prayer they have before every meeting, the US Constitution, and immigration. To watch his full statement on YouTube click here.
On September 5, community members from Taft and the organization Faith in the Valley spoke during the council meeting to share their insights about the threatening comments made by Chavira targeting the immigrant community.
“During the Taft City Council session last June, remarks concerning immigration were made by members of the council that alarmed immigrant community members who watched a recording of the meeting,” Daniel Rodela, an organizer with Faith in the Valley, said at the beginning of his public comment.
Rodela stated that in both Councilmember Josh Bryant and Chavira’s school districts students who identify as Hispanic and Indigenous are visible and growing in the population, and they need protection too.
According to the United States Census in 2022, Taft had a population of around 7,000 people. The census’s website showed that Taft documented only 31% of residents who identified as Hispanic or Latino, and general categories for individuals with origins that identified as “Native Indian” displayed numbers less than one.
Due to historically negative sentiments from authorities, many undocumented individuals or asylum-seekers may not want to be counted in the census for fear of retaliation and deportation. This fear of the government creates barriers to being visible and counted by government entities.
Rodela continued his speech by reminding the public of the gathering at Taft College regarding renovations to Ford City Park. Close to three hundred individuals affiliated with the community signed in and attended. Groups in attendance included the Indigenous Qaxacan people and many who spoke multiple languages like Spanish.
“Claiming the constitution only protects citizens is misinformed and lacks support as we know that Fifth and Fourteenth amendment affords equal protections under the law to all persons residing in the country, documented or not…” Rodela said.
Hector Hernandez, an organizer with Unidad Popular Benito Juarez, also spoke at the September 5 meeting. He started his comments in his native language, acknowledging his indigeneity.
“I’m here to speak on behalf of the comment that was done on June 20 by the council Chavira. We’re here because we heard the audio… I know we have council Krier who says that the community of Taft is growing and getting diverse, and we have a large population of indigenous coming to this area- they are not only coming to work. They’re coming here because they’re establishing businesses, taking their kids to school, paying taxes,” Hernandez stated.
Hernandez reported his community feels threatened by the city because of their citizenship status.
“They’re [doing] what the law says, trying to comply with whatever they’re doing. We’re here to support our community, but when we hear comments like this, comments that our community feels threatened because of their legal status, sometimes you don’t see the community because sometimes you don’t go to the community,” explained Hernandez.