A Quick Opinion
Because I Say So

Front Page
Guest Columnist
Historic Winters
Letters Welcome
Here, There & Everywhere

The Buckhorn

Copyright (c) 2010
Winters Express
312 Railroad Avenue, Winters, CA 95694
(530) 795-4551
Web site by


Forum addresses
community fears,
on immigration

Express correspondent
More than 100 locals filled St. Anthony Parish Hall on Friday night for a public forum about immigration amid the federal government’s expanded efforts to deport undocumented immigrants.
Similar meetings have taken place throughout the region in recent months, but the event in Winters, which has a population that’s about half Hispanic, was among the most well-attended, according to several officials in attendance.
Among the staff and elected officials at the event were State Assembly Member Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, Yolo County Supervisor Don Saylor, City Manager John Donlevy, Mayor Wade Cowan and several city council members, including Jesse Loren, who played an active role in planning the event and is the city council representative for the Hispanic Advisory Committee.
“We want the community to know we value our residents,” said Loren, who presented alongside Hispanic Advisory Committee president Leticia Quirarte, who added that “Winters is Winters because it’s a place in which the people are welcome and accepted.”
Although the clear subtext of the event was the election of Donald Trump, whose campaign was launched on the promise of a border wall and an increase in deportations of undocumented immigrants, the president’s name was not spoken once during the 90 minutes of presentations.
The federal government’s recent raids emphasize a focus on immigrants who have committed violent crimes, but Trump’s campaign statements and executive order have been far more sweeping.
There is an air of uncertainty in the community according to several of the speakers. Friday’s event was an attempt to provide information and answer questions.
“There have been many know-your-rights forums,” said Loren. “What I think is different here is that we’ve asked our police chief to kick it off and answer some tough questions.”
Local vs. federal policing
Winters Police Chief John Miller wanted to draw a distinct line between local law enforcement and federal law enforcement.
“In short, we do not enforce federal immigration law,” Miller said. “We are a local city police department. Immigration is strictly federal.”
Miller noted that no new laws related to immigration have been passed. Trump’s executive order was a directive for federal authorities to more strictly enforce and interpret current immigration laws.
Miller said that in his 25-year career in law enforcement, he has only had contact with ICE on one occasion — that was a human trafficking case in which women were smuggled into the United States and forced into prostitution, he said.
“Winters Police Department is a community policing agency,” he said. “Our primary goal is to treat all residents fairly regardless of immigration status. Effective policing is based on trust.”
Red cards
In recent weeks, small red cards have been circulated in Winters and beyond. On one side, the cards feature wording in English about the cardholder’s desire to exercise his/her Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights — the Fourth being that authorities can’t enter a home without a warrant signed by a judge or magistrate, and the Fifth granting the right to decline to speak or sign documents to avoid self-incrimination.
The other side of the card is in Spanish, and it advises not to open the door if an immigration agent knocks. It also advises not to answer questions or sign anything without talking to a lawyer.
Miller said that although he believes the cards are being passed out with the best of intentions, the department is concerned about them.
“There is potential confusion with how that is used for local law enforcement,” said Miller, with Officer Jose Hermocillo translating his statements to Spanish. “The advice on the card does not necessarily reflect state law. Following the advice on the card when dealing with local law enforcement could be problematic and cause issues. If you have any questions regarding what your rights are, my officers are more than happy to explain.”
Later, a lawyer with the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation recommended following the advice on the card regardless of which authorities are involved.
“It’s hard to tell the difference between police and ICE at times,” said Santiago Avila-Gomez, explaining that the legal rights listed are aimed at preventing self-incrimination. “There is no way to know that a person is undocumented by looking at them. If they don’t say it or don’t have a passport, there’s no way to know a person is undocumented, therefore removal proceedings can’t move forward.”
Avila-Gomez said immigrants, regardless of status, should not be afraid of living their lives, but he emphasized a focus on preparation: Keep passports current, set up power of attorney for children and finances and keep telephone numbers and resources handy.
Children and students
Winters Joint Unified School District Superintendent Todd Cutler sent a letter to all parents in the school district leading up to the forum. The letter, which was made available in English and Spanish, was aimed at assuring members of the community that the district is committed to “the safety and protection of our students at all times.”
“Immigration status is not of interest to us as a district,” said Cutler in his letter. “What is of concern is providing the best possible education to all of our students no matter their background.”
Cutler said if federal authorities like ICE ever approach district staff, he has instructed that the request be passed directly to him.
Andrea Gaytan, director of the Undocumented Student Center at UC Davis, spoke as well. She emphasized that although her office is UC Davis-based, it serves as a resource for students and prospective students beyond the campus.
“There is no embarrassment in not having documents,” she said. “Come visit us or call us. We want to help all students who are in school — high schools and community colleges.”
Gaytan also discussed the DREAM Act, a California State law, and DACA, a federal program started by former President Barack Obama that has an uncertain future in the new administration. Both aim to protect undocumented children seeking an education and opportunities for future employment.
Dr. Melissa Moreno, a professor of Chicano Studies at Woodland Community College and a visiting scholar at UC Davis, closed out the speaking portion of the event.
“Thank you to our presenters for insisting on our sense of belonging here,” she said.
Tables were set up along the perimeter of the room so that attendees could ask specific questions to the organizations and agencies during the final half hour. Resources included the local police department, school district, California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, Interfaith Immigration network,, UC Davis, the Mexican Consulate, the Hispanic Advisory Committee, city staff and more.