The Fresno Bee’s editorial, “President Trump is right: This undocumented criminal should be deported” (Sept. 22) is many things. What it is not, is an editorial/opinion piece. It is a platform to feed the beast of Trumpism, specifically the trope of the dangerous, murdering, Mexican immigrant. The sensationalized headline, the appetizer; the perversion of California Senate Bill 54, the main course; and, the trampling of the U.S. Constitution, the dessert. The last paragraph is the check due after such a meal. This check implies the system in place (CA SB 54) did not work and must be changed. This is just not true. The price for believing this, though, is too damn high.
The headline, designed as click bait, appeals to racist sentiment and fuels ignorance about the actual ingredients of the law. CA SB 54 does not prevent the deportation of undocumented criminals. It provides a constitutionally viable pathway to do so. It is a good thing. It functioned as it should in the Lopez-Herrera case served up in The Bee’s piece. The Fresno Bee Editorial Board failed to point this out. But what is more distasteful is the main course.
The article implies that because of SB 54, a dangerous undocumented criminal was allowed to roam the county freely. This is wrong. Lopez-Herrera is a dangerous man. Just ask his wife. But Lopez-Herrera was arrested. He pled no contest to the misdemeanor charges of battery and criminal threats. He served the court-mandated sentence (whether or not the length of the sentence was enough is another course that will not be consumed here). CA SB 54 allows California local law enforcement agencies to communicate with federal ICE agencies regarding release and transport of certain undocumented people who commit certain crimes. Over 800 crimes fit this bill, including this one. Merced County Sheriff Warnke informed ICE of Lopez-Herrera’s impending release. For whatever reason, ICE failed to have the necessary legal mechanisms in place to arrest him. Therefore, Lopez-Herrera was living in the community, near the woman he battered, with access to guns, for over five months. This is clearly a failure. A failure of ICE enforcement; not a failure of CA SB 54. None of this was pointed out in the article. This omission creates an incomplete understanding of the situation, which in turn reinforces the erroneous notion that California’s law somehow encourages criminality. Rather, California’s SB 54 upholds the United State Constitution. That’s a good thing.
Both the Merced County sheriff and the federal ICE field office director wish to expand SB 54 in ways that would violate the 4th Amendment of the Constitution, in this case detaining somebody beyond their sentence without a warrant. Like it or not, citizen or no, everyone is protected by that document. This is another good thing. Unfortunately, Trump and The Fresno Bee Editorial Board think otherwise. According to this piece, their hope is to vest individual sheriffs with the discretionary power to detain someone or not. This will inevitably lead to the unequal enforcement of the law and the further whittling away of our rights under the Constitution. That really leaves a bad taste in our mouths.
After eating this meal The Bee has prepared for us, we admit, we feel nauseous and have indigestion. Can we please get a Tums?
Kathryn Forbes is the coordinator of the Women’s Studies Program at Fresno State. Susanne Taylor lives in Fresno.