Resolution on the Dignity, Health and Safety of Sonoma County Immigrants (2021)NO.______________
I. Need for Federal Path To Citizenship
WHEREAS: Of the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants nationwide, California is home to more than 2 million. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, the state is home to nearly one-quarter (23 percent) of the nation’s undocumented immigrants, and approximately 25,000 live and work in Sonoma County. They continuously live in fear of being separated from their families and deported.
WHEREAS: The undocumented are more than the subject of political debates, they are our neighbors, relatives, colleagues, and friends. Almost half (49 percent) of the state’s undocumented have lived here for more than 10 years. And they are deeply connected to the state’s citizenry.
WHEREAS: Roughly one in six of the state’s children have at least one undocumented immigrant parent – and stabilizing and improving the situation of their parents is an investment in our state’s long-term future. The well-being of their undocumented parents will have an impact on the future of the state and County.
WHEREAS: Immigrants largely come to the United States seeking opportunity, and immigrant labor and expertise is vital to local economies and industries, including Sonoma County. Sonoma County has an interest in ensuring that our employers and industries of all types can hire and retain a qualified workforce that meets our needs and helps to strengthen our local economy.
WHEREAS: FWD.us estimates that the U.S. economy would increase by $121 billion annually if Dreamers, TPS holders, farmworkers, and undocumented essential workers were U.S. citizens, including multi-billion expansions in a dozen state economies, and boosting federal, state, and local tax revenue by $31 billion annually.
WHEREAS: Many immigrants in Sonoma County have worked the front lines during the global pandemic and wildfires of recent years and are considered essential workers. They have made Sonoma County their home and have waited for a Path to Citizenship for decades.
WHEREAS: Many immigrant workers in Sonoma County work in this County under special work visas, or guest worker programs, or temporary worker programs. These workers are particular vulnerable to exploitation because their legal status is conditioned on working for one particular employer. If the specific employment ends, the worker becomes deportable. This employment relationship encourages workplace abuse and discourages workers from complaining about exploitative or illegal practices.
WHEREAS: Although immigration is a federal responsibility, inaction by Congress and shifting federal administrative policies have created confusion and uncertainty for county governments, who must provide for the well-being and safety of all members of our communities, including immigrant populations. For this reason, the National Association of Counties (NACo) has called on Congress to put aside political differences and urgently come to agreement on meaningful immigration legislation that provides clarity at the local level and helps counties work with federal partners on immigration issues while serving the needs of all residents.
WHEREAS: One of the remaining issues most important for our state is ensuring a clear and rapid roadmap to citizenship for the currently undocumented population. Immigration reform matters to California not only because of the sheer size of our immigrant population, but because immigrants have become woven into California’s, and Sonoma County’s, social, civic and economic life.
WHEREAS: Leaders in the Senate, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (DNY) and Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-VT), successfully included funding for immigration reform, including a proposed pathway to citizenship for certain immigrants who are undocumented, in FY2022 budget resolution as part of the budget reconciliation process.
WHEREAS: The Sonoma County Immigrant community needs the support of local government to send a message to the House that it ensure that Congress pass pathways to citizenship in this moment. The recent ruling by a Texas court that put the future of DACA in jeopardy underscores the urgency for Congressional action. We cannot wait any longer when our communities’ livelihoods and their families’ ability to thrive are at stake. With the growing calls for action from Americans from all walks of life and momentum, Congress has a historic opportunity to break through decades of political impasse and enact long-overdue changes to our country’s immigration system that benefit all of us.
II. Need For Passage of California Vision Act (AB937)
WHEREAS: California’s jails and prisons voluntarily and unnecessarily transfer immigrant and refugee community members eligible for release from state or local custody to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for immigration detention and deportation purposes, they subject these community members to double punishment and further trauma.
WHEREAS: Immigrant community members can be incarcerated by ICE, often for prolonged periods and with no right to bail, and deported--permanently banishing them from the country, their families, homes, livelihoods and “all that makes life worth living.” Ng Fung Ho v. White, 259 U.S. 276, 284 (1922). The Supreme Court has repeatedly acknowledged that for many people deportation is a more severe penalty than any jail sentence.
WHEREAS: Community members transferred to ICE are refugees, lawful permanent residents, people who entered the United States as children, parents, caretakers, essential workers, or are otherwise valued California residents. California should not subject these community members to a second, double punishment, and disregard their record of rehabilitation, stable reentry plans, and community support, purely because they are refugees or immigrants. Ending ICE transfers in California is a reflection of the state’s commitment to ending racial injustice and mass incarceration.
WHEREAS: California’s punitive carceral system unjustly and disproportionately harms ‘Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and Asian and Pacific Islander American communities. In recent years, with the passing of SB260, SB261, SB1437, AB1812, and Proposition 47, the legislature and California voters have demonstrated a strong commitment to reforming our criminal justice system and ending mass incarceration.
WHEREAS: AB937, the Voiding Inequality and Seeking Inclusion for Our Immigrant Neighbors (VISION) Act, would protect refugee and immigrant community members who have already been deemed eligible for release from being funneled by local jails and our state prison system to immigration detention, and would prohibit local law enforcement from participating in or facilitating immigration arrests.
WHEREAS: Prohibiting transfers to ICE would protect Californians, including those living in Sonoma County, from being subjected to inhumane and unsanitary conditions in immigration detention, close the main pipeline filling immigration detention beds, and reunite refugee and immigrant families and communities.
III. Need For Domestic Worker Health & Safety Protections
WHEREAS: In California, There are over 300,000 domestic workers who work as housekeepers, nannies, and caregivers for seniors and people with disabilities. There are two million households that rely on domestic workers to care for their homes and loved ones. That number is expected to increase by more than 50% by 2022.
WHEREAS: Domestic workers, largely immigrant women and people of color, have been historically excluded from the most basic labor protections. Some of our key federal labor laws -- the National Labor Relations Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and the Occupational Safety and Health Act -- have at some point, if not currently, excluded these workers. This exclusion, which is part of the ongoing legacy of slavery, has served to further the false narrative that domestic work is voluntary/unpaid and “non-productive.” In addition, the law’s failure to recognize domestic work as real work has left domestic service workers particularly vulnerable to workplace injuries and illness, with little recourse.
WHEREAS: Many of our essential workers are forced to work in dangerous, wildfire areas without basic health and safety protections.and equitable compensation. During the Kincade Fire, agricultural workers were driven by their employers to work in vineyards where air quality was rated dangerous to workers’ health.
WHEREAS: The COVID 19 pandemic has further exposed how these failures have had devastating impacts on domestic workers in California. Studies have shown that the pandemic has negatively impacted the health and financial well-being of Latinx, Asian, and Black people at a much higher rate than any other demographic. According to the California Department of Public Health, this racial demographic makes up 64% of Covid-19 related deaths. Domestic workers, who are 75% immigrant women of color in the state, have continuously exposed themselves to the virus without protections at work, thus, putting their lives at risk as well as their families and communities.
WHEREAS: Domestic workers act as frontline and essential workers during the current worldwide health pandemic. They provide care to California’s most vulnerable to illness, like seniors and people with compromised immune systems, yet they remain vulnerable and without health and safety guidelines. Domestic workers are vulnerable because they work long hours for low wages, without access to healthcare and paid sick days. Many are seniors themselves and have their own health challenges.
WHEREAS: In the private home workplace, occupational risks and hazards for domestic workers include physical and ergonomic demands and exposure to infectious diseases and household cleaning chemicals. A June 2020 report from the UCLA Labor and Occupational Safety and Health Program found that 85% of domestic workers surveyed experience musculoskeletal injuries that are associated with chronic pain. Many respondents, 94% of whom were Latinx and Asian, reported continuing to work through their injuries for fear of job or financial loss. Such injuries could be prevented by appropriate health and safety guidance.
WHEREAS: Domestic workers are also at risk of suffering from psychological stress, and are especially vulnerable to workplace violations. They are at risk of physical, emotional and sexual abuse by employers or clients, and those risks are heightened because they work alone, in informal workplace environments, without psychological support or physical assistance. During the recent wildfires, employers asked domestic workers and day laborers to stay behind to help fight fires, guard homes or pets, and clean up toxic ashes. Workers are also put at risk when their employers fail to tell them not to come in to work when the homes they work in were under mandatory evacuation orders.
WHEREAS: These crises and disasters have highlighted the vulnerability and dangers that domestic workers and day laborers face because they are excluded from California’s Occupational Health and Safety protections.
WHEREAS: SB 321: The Health and Safety for All Workers Act would require Cal/OSHA to convene an advisory committee in order to create and publish for the first time the occupational health and safety guidelines specific to the domestic work industry. The advisory committee would include domestic workers, employers, and experts in the field of occupational health and safety. Compliance with these guidelines would be voluntary. This would be the first step in removing completely the exclusion of domestic workers under state health and safety protections.
IV. Need For Farm Worker Health & Safety Rules
WHEREAS: Sonoma County is known for wine, with a value of $1.9 billion in annual revenue.
WHEREAS: 11,060 farm workers work in the wine industry. Almost all of them are Latinx, immigrant workers and many are undocumented. Without the work of farm workers there would be no wine industry in Sonoma County.
WHEREAS: Despite being indispensable and essential, Sonoma County farm workers often face dangerous, unsafe and unhealthy work conditions, especially during crises. Farmworkers disproportionately became infected with the COVID-19 virus. Farmworkers worked in the fields and on farms during the wildfires, exposing themselves to smoke, extreme heat and flames.
WHEREAS: While many farmworkers are migrants from Mexico and Central America, not all speak Spanish as their first language. Some primarily speak one of many oral Indigenous languages including Mixteco, Chatino, Triqui, and Maya. These are distinct languages that have been passed down for generations and often have multiple dialects that differ based on geography.
WHEREAS: Most agricultural employers fail to effectively communicate with Indigenous farmworkers working for them. This failure to communicate creates dangerous situations in times of wildfires and other crises. All safety and evacuation trainings should be provided in the farmworkers’ first languages, including Indigenous languages.
WHEREAS: When fires and smoke are too intense, the wine industry receives insurance payments with significant assistance from the federal government to cover losses. However, most farmworkers do not receive any assistance for their lost income.
WHEREAS: In 2019, the total payments to Sonoma County wineries for fire damage amounted to $63 million. Taxpayers pay 60% of the federal crop insurance premiums. Sonoma County farmworkers received no assistance for lost wages during the wildfire season. Farmworkers deserve disaster insurance so they can continue to support themselves and their families during wildfire season.
WHEREAS: Cal/OSHA doesn’t have enough inspectors and resources to enforce health and safety protocols, including wildfire smoke standards. Ten (10) Cal/OSHA inspectors are responsible for enforcement in a five-county district, which includes Sonoma County. More than 1,000,000 workers work in the five-county district. Only one of the ten inspectors in Sonoma County’s district speaks Spanish. Zero inspectors speak Indigenous languages.
WHEREAS: Farmworkers express the benefits of having Community Safety Observers in the fields to observe health and safety protocols, including wildfire smoke standards.
WHEREAS: Jobs With Justice has already trained community volunteers to serve as community safety observers who are ready to begin observing.
WHEREAS: Wildfires and harvest now occur at the same time. Since workers are generally paid by the quantity or weight of fruit harvested, they often run for hours at a time through the smoke.
WHEREAS: Wildfire smoke is ten times more toxic than car exhaust.
WHEREAS: Farmworkers deserve premium hazard pay when they work in unhealthy and dangerous environments such as evacuation zones, smokey air, near wildfires, and in extreme heat.
WHEREAS: Farmworkers continue to expose the lack of sanitary bathrooms and clean drinking water in the Sonoma County fields. Increased numbers of workers during harvest combined with ash and soot from wildfires quickly dirties already crowded porta-potties.
WHEREAS: The law requires toilets in the fields to be clean at all times, with one toilet per 20 workers. Drinking water must be fresh, pure and suitably cool. Single use paper cups must be available.
WHEREAS: All farmworkers deserve clean bathrooms and drinking water during harvest and wildfires.
V. Need for Implementation of Community Recommendations on Disaster Responses
WHEREAS: The firestorms, floods, and pandemic that have devastated Sonoma County do not distinguish between citizens and non-citizens, nor between renters and owners. Everyone living in the County was affected by these disasters, but there is unequal access to protection and relief.
WHEREAS: During the Tubbs and Nuns fires of 2018, the County endangered the lives of its Spanish-speaking and immigrant communities by issuing alerts only in English;
WHEREAS: Immigrant and undocumented residents of Sonoma County were afraid to access County services because of potential ICE enforcement activity;
WHEREAS: Although alerts and signs at the Local Assistance Centers are now bilingual, Sonoma County has failed to effectively inform immigrant and undocumented people about alert systems, disaster preparedness, evacuation routes, and where to shelter, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. The County has not prioritized compliance with SB 160, which requires all disaster planning to be culturally and linguistically responsive to the needs of local communities.
WHEREAS: Rather than engage with and invest in trusted community messengers, the County relies on communicating about disasters through the Sheriff’s Department, which is not trusted by immigrant and undocumented people and many others.
WHEREAS: Despite repeated pledges to involve the community, the County has not convened a community advisory council to create County language access policies, nor to assist the Department of Emergency Management in its update and revision of the Emergency Operations Plan.
WHEREAS: During any disaster, volunteers who speak Spanish and indigenous languages play a critical role in assisting Sonoma County residents to know their rights and to feel safe. Yet in the shelters, Red Cross personnel have notably displayed racism toward evacuees and discouraged immigrant volunteers and donations. Bilingual high school and community college students have not been encouraged or trained as volunteers, though such a program would benefit everyone involved. There has been no concerted effort to identify and train bilingual volunteers to help at the shelters.
WHEREAS: After any disaster, all residents face the challenges of recovery, yet immigrant and undocumented people do not have equal access to resources or basic protections. For example, during and after fires, workers have been forced to work outside with dangerously high air quality ratings, and to work in debris removal without full-face personal protective equipment. Also, immigrant and undocumented people have been victimized by rent and price increases after wildfires and during COVID-19, and denied government support despite the fact that they pay taxes.
BE IT RESOLVED that Sonoma County Urges Congress to Preserve Funding for Pro-Immigrant Policies, including a Path To Citizenship, in the Budget Resolution; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that regardless of the outcome of the 2021 Budget process, Sonoma County will continue to proactively and aggressively advocate to Congress and the President for the passage of a Path to Citizenship policy; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that Sonoma County rejects all the proposals in Congress that promote the firing of immigrant workers, open the doors to new guest worker programs, continue the criminalization of undocumented immigrants, and do not contain a program for the quick and inclusive legalization of undocumented workers; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that Sonoma County urges California to pass the VISION Act (AB937); and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that Sonoma County urges California to pass the Health & Safety For All Workers Act (SB321); and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that Sonoma County supports the five demands of the Farm Worker Safety Committee of Jobs With Justice related to farm workers’ health and safety; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that Sonoma County will implement the recommendations of the Immigrant Defense Task Force (IDTF) of the North Bay Organizing Project (NBOP) around culturally competent disaster responses to the Immigrant & Indigenous community.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that Sonoma County will communicate the relevant contents of this Resolution to their respective targets, including Congressional leaders, the President, the State Legislature, the Governor, the Agricultural Commission, County employees, and others.
“What’s At Stake For the State: Undocumented Californians, Immigration Reform, and Our Future Together,” the center for the study of immigrant integration university of Southern California
“The County Role in Immigration, The National Association of Counties (NACo), NACo Immigration Reform Task Force.
National Immigration Law Center (NILC)
California Domestic Worker Coalition (CDWC)
North Bay Jobs With Justice
Immigrant Defense Task Force, North Bay Organizing Project (NBOP)
Asian Law Caucus (San Francisco)