Our Sanctuary City
By: Chuy Hernandez, MUA’s Immigrant Rights Organizer
At the beginning of 2015, after providing four years of direct service to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, I began my new role as San Francisco Immigrant Rights Organizer. Though these two complex issues seem unrelated, they are intimately connected. My transition from one program to another marks a new accomplishment for MUA and its commitment to support the leadership of its staff and to our continued learning and development.
As an immigrant woman it is important for me to be present in spaces where conversations and decision making that affect the immigrant community are being held. I participate in the Free SF Coalition where I am learning how to pass local policies and how to share our stories with legislators and media.
During the eight months that I have been a part of Free SF, our priority has been to get Pep-Comm out of San Francisco. Part of this process has been to make visits and calls to our supervisors so that they can hear our stories and perspectives. With the help of allies and coalition members we were able to host workshops that prepared our members to speak to the media. In the week leading up to the Board of Supervisors hearing we were very worried that our resolution would not receive the votes needed to pass. and that the resolution attacking our community would.
Participating in Free SF has not only helped me develop my own leadership, but it has also been a space to develop the leadership of our members. In our mobilizations against Pep-Comm, our members showed great courage in sharing their stories. We sought to demonstrate the ways in which cooperation between ICE and local law enforcement creates a lack of trust between police and immigrant communities, with a particular focus on the way in which Pep-Comm silences immigrant women who are experiencing domestic violence because calling on the police may lead to their detention, deportation, and family separation. Maria A. shared her story about a time in which she was the sole witness of a crime and could not report it, because of the fear she felt in calling the police as a result of her immigration status. I am very proud of members like Enma Delgado, who have learned how these policies affect us and participated actively to ensure that the Supervisors would vote in favor of our resolution and against the criminalization of our community. This resolution against Pep-Comm is a step toward ensuring that our community does not live in fear or isolation. Our struggle continues until we guarantee that SF continues to be a sanctuary city that welcomes immigrants.