January 22, 2019

Rabbis, other clergy demonstrate to support SB 54

About 100 protesters from Jewish and other faith groups gathered outside the Hall of Justice on Temple Street to call for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to end state cooperation with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) and to support the so-called sanctuary bill.

They banged drums and chanted in Spanish and English on the building’s steps, as an elaborate ice sculpture of the word ICE, melted under the noon Sun. Their message to LA County Sheriff Jim McDonnell was clear. Stop working with ICE.


“My grandfather crossed the Canadian border to come here illegally in 1920. Under Trump’s ICE regime he would have been sent back to Europe and I would have died in the Holocaust,” said Aryeh Cohen, Rabbi-in-Residence for Bend the Arc.

“We are all immigrants. We know what it’s like to feel vulnerable in a strange land,” said Joel Simonds, the Jewish Center for Justice’s executive director. “We want the Sheriff to protect us,and to advocate for bills that would make us safer.”

Senate Bill 54, scheduled for a State Assembly vote later this month, will limit information to ICE agents on county jail inmates and disallows local law enforcement from sharing information with immigration officials. The bill was introduced in response to the Trump administration’s broadened deportation efforts of undocumented immigrants.

Photo by Nicholas Cheng


Sheriff McDonnell opposes the bill, saying that it would hinder custody transfer of violent criminals to the feds. The LASD did not respond to requests for comment.

Bill Brown, the Santa Barbara County sheriff and president of the California State Sheriffs Association said SB 54 would cut local enforcers from federal resources which they rely on to keep dangerous and violent criminals from returning to the streets.

“I think they (the protestors) should know we are certainly sensitive to the plight of the immigrant community who are law abiding. It is a small element within that community with the express goal to commit crime that we are talking about,” he said.

But Guillermo Torres, senior organizer for Clergy & Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE), says immigrants with no criminal backgrounds have been targeted by ICE – like Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez, who was picked up by agents after dropping off his daughter for school in Lincoln Heights.

Photo by Nicholas Cheng


“Why would the Sheriff want to collaborate with an agency that wants to separate mothers and fathers from their children?” he said, before marching with other faith leaders to present a letter to the LASD.

Also at the protest was a smaller group of anti-SB 54 protestors who argued that SB 54 would protect criminal undocumented immigrants that could do harm.

“We want legal immigrants,” said Robin Hvidston, executive director for Claremont-based We The People Rising, an anti-undocumented immigration group. “Return to your home country and then come to this country, legally!”