Immigration activists held a rally Monday in downtown Fresno to protest Sheriff Margaret Mims telling President Donald Trump at a roundtable meeting that California's sanctuary state laws are a "disgrace.'
The law limits how much information about criminal suspects can be shared with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.
Brisa Cruz, an organizer with the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance, told about 50 fellow protesters that Mims has long held "an anti-immigrant agenda."
In the past three years, 500 people have been turned over to ICE or have been deported under a program in which ICE agents had access to jail inmates, and Mims still allows agents in the jail, she said.
"That's not OK," Cruz said. "Time after time, people like Sheriff Mims, holding positions of power, get away with so many injustices."
Before the rally started, Mims' office issue a statement defending her position on the sanctuary state issue.
"California’s sanctuary laws protect those who have committed crimes, get arrested, then booked into our local jails," Mims said. "Many of those crimes are committed against those in our immigrant community. The law protects these criminals at the expense of the safety and well-being of those who are hard-working, law abiding community members and limits communications with federal law enforcement partners.”
Willie Lopez, representing El Concilio de Fresno, a non-profit group that advocates for Latinos and others, said the protest was a peaceful one held in the tradition of Cesar Chavez, the labor rights leader, and Mahatma Gandhi, who opposed British rule in India.
"We need to work together, we need to articulate our concerns," Lopez said.
Alyssa Bonner, vice president of the local Service Employee International Union, faulted Mims for being "silent" when President Trump at their meeting described some undocumented immigrants as "animals."
"She didn't stand up for her community, which is filled with diverse people that come here and work here, that are among us," she said.
Michael Evans, chairman of the Fresno County Democratic Party, said America is a nation of immigrants.
"Whether you come today or come tomorrow, your immigrant experience is no less significant than that of my ancestors who came here a couple of centuries ago," Evans said. "Fresno County democrats stand with our immigrant brothers and sisters and we support California's sanctuary state."
Leticia Lopez, a fellow at the American Friends Service Committee in Tulare County, said her mother came from Mexico to pursue opportunity. Her mom now lives in Mexico and has been barred entry into the United States for at least 10 years as she seeks citizenship, so Lopez must go there to see her.
""We need to end the separation," she said. "We need to end the deportations."
The rally drew two counter-protesters.
"I support legal immigration," said Ben Bergquam , who recorded the event on his video camera. "I'm here supporting the rule of law. I support our sheriff."
Bill Lerch of Fresno said his mother became a citizen after coming the United States from the Philippines.
"I'm for legal immigration," he said. "I'm for the right way."