SANTA CRUZ, Calif. - Magi Amma, an immigration activist, said she was called to one of the scenes during the MS-13 gang bust in February.
“I talked to one of the families after the raids and their doors had been busted and broken in,” Amma said. “One of the women and one of the young children were taken out to the van early in the morning when it was freezing outside.”
The raids, a collaboration between federal agencies and Santa Cruz police, not only took out suspected gang members, but also detained people based on their immigration status.
That led to a law enforcement split, where SCPD slammed ICE on multiple occasions for not being truthful about its intentions.
City officials said the ordinance passed Tuesday sends an important message to the community
“Police are really here to help them. They should feel comfortable coming forward if any crimes are committed in our community and not be afraid that they may be deported because they make a call to 911,” deputy city manager Scott Collins said.
The ordinance also made it clear that Santa Cruz police will not cooperate with federal immigration agencies unless required by law.
“I think we probably have one of the strongest ordinances on record for California,” Collins said.
Some residents said it's a big move for the city.
“I’m thrilled. I mean, we are all really happy. We worked really hard to make this happen,” Amma said.
“I think that people should be able to live in peace, especially if they are not harming anybody,” Santa Cruz resident Tiffani Stewart said.
Still, Amma said there's a lot to do.
“I don’t know if that’s going to offer them a lot of comfort or not, frankly, because we’ve seen what happened and they are very, very afraid,” Amma said.
The city is looking to create a county-wide committee to help undocumented immigrants. Officials are also working to launch free legal clinics in the coming months.