People Post is a space for opinion pieces, letters to the editor and guest submissions from members of the Long Beach community. The following is an op-ed submitted by Gaby Hernandez and Maribel Cruz, undocumented residents and organizers with Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Long Beach Post.
The Black Lives Matter movement and the recent uprisings have inspired a deeper conversation about where the city is investing our tax dollars. This is a critical time for the city to listen to communities’ needs, reflect, and take action to divest from police and invest in Black, Indigenous, and communities of color.
Our leaders in this city have choices to make in the coming months about how to help our communities survive these challenging times: Funding the Long Beach Justice Fund as a part of the People’s Budget is one strong choice we hope they make this fall.
Since 2018, Long Beach has taken the lead as the first and only city in Los Angeles County—and one of only a handful of cities in California—to provide legal defense for immigrants facing deportation, regardless of income, race, national origin, or history with the criminal legal system.
This program has provided legal representation to 21 Long Beach residents who were at risk of deportation. As a result of community support and this program, Long Beach community members have been freed from detention and get to remain with their families in Long Beach. It has been proven that represented immigrants are 3.5 times more likely to be released from detention on bond and up to 10 times more likely to establish a right to remain in the United States.
We must not forget that these “immigrants” are not just mere statistics you see on the news—they are our brothers, mothers, grandparents, teachers and community members, they are us. We are the Long Beach community and there are approximately 30,000 of us currently in Long Beach! We are long-term Long Beach residents who on average have lived in this country for 14 years. Many of us are parents with children under the age of 18 and many of us are the sole breadwinners of our families.
We are living in unprecedented times. We are surviving through a global pandemic where long term Long Beach residents are under constant threat of possible immigration detention and deportation. Detention can ultimately be a death sentence. Immigrants in detention are struggling more than ever before: from living in close quarters to the lack of access to basic products like soap and hygiene items.
This is happening in conjunction with the systemic arrest and constant ICE transfers of detainees to facilities across the country, which has allowed the spread of the coronavirus to go unchecked. The situation has been dealt with such impunity that the spread could be much worse than what ICE is currently reporting.
Long Beach has the opportunity to be one of the only cities in the nation to permanently invest in immigrant communities by renewing the Justice Fund. There is strong public support for programs like these. For example, a recent poll conducted by the Vera Institute showed that 92% of people surveyed in Los Angeles County, including Long Beach residents, support government-funded attorneys for people in immigration court.
Mayor Garcia’s budget proposal was a step in the right direction, but the fight to protect our immigrant community is far from over. Though the Mayor has proposed to make this fund permanent, the Long Beach City Council must approve Mayor Garcia’s budget proposal and allocate $400,000 for the Long Beach Justice Fund for Fiscal Year 2021-2022.
As Long Beach residents and undocumented women ourselves, the Long Beach Justice Fund is more than a budget item for us. The livelihood of our families, communities, and our own depend on it. Long Beach depends on this.