Since the 2016 presidential election and even leading up to it, we became a nation visibly divided. The line of demarcation became so obvious that if “you were for Trump, you were against me” and vice versa with Hillary Clinton. But then it became even more fractured after the inauguration in all sorts of arenas, including here in Ventura County.
For instance, Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean has openly opposed Sacramento’s proposed sanctuary state bill, SB 54 (refer to in letters this week), not as a racist stance, but with caveats around the problem of not allowing Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the jail after arrests that have nothing to do with immigration status. Several supporters of the bill, or rather the idea of a sanctuary state, simply can’t see any flaws in the bill; and because of that, believe that any opponent has an agenda to discriminate and hate. There may be certain circumstances that have left undocumented immigrants vulnerable in jail locally, but there is a bigger picture to consider.
Under former President Barack Obama, more undocumented immigrants were deported than under prior presidents and even under President Donald Trump. It is reasonable to be afraid of a president who has so many racist things to say, but we seem to be ignoring facts and history. According to an Aug. 8 Politico story, “Trump deportations lag behind Obama levels,” so far, from Feb. 1 to June 30, ICE officials have removed 84,473 people — a rate of roughly 16,900 people per month. In fiscal year 2016, ICE removed 240,255 people from the country, a rate of more than 20,000 people per month. In fiscal year 2012 — the peak year for deportations under Obama — the agency removed an average of roughly 34,000 people per month. Surely there was some outcry then (clearly not very loud and combative as now), but still, to be so pitted against each other without trying to foster continued discussions and only settling on “all or nothing” stances is exactly the sort of response a divisive president wants.
In the city of Oxnard, there are several disgruntled residents, including a couple of elected officials, City Councilman Bert Perello and City Treasurer Phil Molina, who are the self-appointed watchdogs over city funds and who feel an obligation to take issue with practically every payment request and the city’s standard operating financial procedures within the context of the law. It’s been a whirlwind of accusations of malfeasance, done publicly through email blasts to media, residents and city staff, that have not turned out to be such, repeatedly. But there is no consequence for these elected officials regarding the time that city staff has worked to justify fiscal practices. In certain instances, Molina has also refused to issue payments when requested, which inherently threatens worse consequences due to late payments, further burying the city in financial problems. It seems ironic that the mission of the watchdogs to save the city money ends up costing it in lost work hours, much less possible late payment fees, that could have been used to find other cost-saving measures for city programs and services. And so, Oxnard city staff just toil away to answer questions of a few while ignoring the needs of thousands in the process.
This prevailing attitude of some of the most outspoken in Ventura County, the idea that if you aren’t with me, you are against me; if you don’t support this wholly, then you are against it wholly; if you are not my friend, then you are my enemy; this creates a certain chaos among well-intended individuals. The path of understanding isn’t to choose sides; it’s to thoroughly discuss what works best for both and find a path where both find a reasonable compromise. Unfortunately, that may require in some cases starting over and working on something together cohesively to have all arguments considered.
It’s odd to think, however, that the thing most reasonable people seem to hate the most about the current president, the division that he has fostered, is the one we have all agreed is, in fact, the best course. When confrontation arises, fighting to win and to be right is not doing much good. Perhaps, instead of throwing barbs, we can just sit down and talk instead, both privately as well as in organized public forums with those we disagree with. Hopefully this is as low as we can go and the only place from here is up.