Pastor Wangki, of Trinity Christian Church in Merced, works to support the Southeast Asian community as they face language barriers, information barriers, transportation barriers, and the threat of anti-Asian racism in their daily lives.
By Thaddeus Miller—Feb. 8, 2017
LIVINGSTON — The town appears to be on its way to becoming Merced County’s first sanctuary city, a symbolic self-designation meant to ease the minds of undocumented immigrants worried over ongoing changes to immigration policy under the Trump administration.
Emotions ran high during the regular meeting of the City Council on Tuesday as about a dozen residents spoke, some in English and some in Spanish, recounting their daily fears related to the undocumented immigrant status of themselves or their loved ones.
“We want our families together,” Adriana Meza said as her voice cracked with emotion. “We want to feel safe.”
The City Council heard a presentation on sanctuary cities during the meeting followed by the public input of concerned residents. None of the public speakers or elected officials spoke against a move to designate Livingston a sanctuary city.
Meza, a 25-year-old Fresno State student, said she came to Livingston with her family 22 years ago, and attended schools in the city of about 13,500. She said she feels safe when away at school – Fresno State has vowed to protect undocumented students – but she can’t help but worry about her family.
“When I leave town, I think about my mom, and I feel, if our community has our back, we will feel safer to go out or even call the police,” she said.
“When you’re undocumented, you don’t feel safe calling the police, especially now.”
Another resident, Floripes Dzib, urged the council to take on the sanctuary self-designation. The 38-year-old said Livingston has many undocumented residents who own homes, pay taxes and work locally.
Many of them are involved in difficult field work. “We depend on these workers,” she said.
President Donald Trump has talked about deporting 11 million people without documentation, and has promised to build a wall on the Mexican border, both of which have generated fear in the undocumented community, Livingston residents said.
That fear, real or imagined, has real effects on people and the city. A study released Jan. 26 by Tom K. Wong, a political scientist at the University of California, San Diego, found crime is significantly lower in sanctuary counties compared with counties without the designation. Economies in sanctuary counties are also stronger, the report said.
Read more at the Merced Sun-Star.