Response to Ruth Luevanos and Mini Fact-Check

One of our founders, Jennifer Van Laar, wrote a response to her city councilwoman Ruth Luevanos' recent video, which we are cross-posting here. The following is a transcript of Luevanos' video with Van Laar's comments and fact-checks interspersed.

“Hi. My name is Ruth Luevanos. I’m a city council member for the City of Simi Valley, and I’m here to speak to you about an issue that affects us all.”

Right out of the gate, she violates the City of Simi Valley Code of Ethics. She’s filming this video in her City Council office, and it’s highly political in nature.

“I’m hearing news from our southern border, and right now the United States is in the business of running concentration camps. They’re dehumanizing our refugee immigrants, our families that are coming here. They’re asking them to drink out of toilets. They’re verbally and physically harassing them, and they’re denying them basic sanitary care.”

Aside from the inflammatory language, Luevanos’ contention is simply wrong. The “drinking out of toilets” claim has been thoroughly debunked.

“My understanding is that on July 14th, this Sunday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement is planning nationwide raids throughout our communities. This is not okay. This is not just targeting criminals who are here undocumented. This is targeting all families, and they’ve already said they’re going to have collateral deportations. This means tearing families apart, families that have worked here and lived here for generations, paid their taxes, followed all the laws, and are simply seeking a legal recourse that they haven’t had for years in our immigration system.”

According to a July 12 Washington Post story (hardly a conservative source), “Trump and administration officials had previously said that Immigration and Customs Enforcement was planning an operation to target thousands of migrant families that have received final deportation orders, a carefully coordinated push that was to focus on up to 10 cities across the country.” Nearly every word she uttered in the above paragraph is false, and she knows it. If she doesn’t know it, then she needs to inform herself instead of listening to biased news sources. And if she’s not willing to do that, then she doesn’t need to be in the position of creating policy for a city of over 120,000 residents.

“This is just a political stunt by our current president to ensure his re-election, but it does not make our communities any safer. These raids strike fear into communities, into homes, into workplaces, and into schools. We’ve already had communities that have lost enrollment in their school districts because of these raids.”

Enforcing the law is a political stunt?

I “am here to tell you that you have rights. Under the US Supreme Court case of Plyer vs. Doe, there are rights that have been established by our US Supreme Court for undocumented immigrants. This means you have the right to an attorney. You have the right to remain silent. You do not have to sign any documents that are presented to you. You do not have to open your door to ICE officials. ICE cannot legally force their entry into your home.”

Luevanos is citing rights for undocumented immigrants who randomly encounter ICE, not for fugitives. As has been stated by Trump and DHS officials, and cited in numerous news stories, this operation was targeted at people who have already been ordered deported and have failed to show up at the designated time and place to be deported. At that point they are fugitives and assigned to ICE’s National Fugitive Operations Program. That means that there is an order for their arrest, and that gives ICE the right to forcibly enter the home. The fugitive still has the right to remain silent and other rights, though.

“Due to Sen. Kevin de Leon’s bill, the Family Values Act that was passed in the State of California, the Simi Valley Police Department will not be assisting in these ICE immigration raids.”

First, it’s called the California Values Act, not the Family Values Act (which is quite the misnomer). Additionally, SB54 specifically permits local law enforcement’s involvement when (emphasis mine): “(5) The individual has been convicted of a federal crime that meets the definition of an aggravated felony as set forth in subparagraphs (A) to (P), inclusive, of paragraph (43) of subsection (a) of Section 101 of the federal Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. Sec. 1101), or is identified by the United States Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement as the subject of an outstanding federal felony arrest warrant.” Ignoring an Order of Removal and a “Bag and Baggage” order is a felony.

“A previous City Council of which I was not a part of joined in a lawsuit against the Family Values Act. But I’m here to let you know that the Family Values Act of the State of California is still law. Our local police resources will be used for local issues. That is what taxpayer money goes towards.

“These raids are immoral and they are striking fear into communities unnecessarily. They are contradictory. They are ineffective in the community, and they go against the policies that we’ve set forth to ensure that we have a safe community for everyone who lives here, and they make everyone feel less safe. They do not ensure safety; they actually do the opposite. That is why the Family Values act was passed in the State of California and is still law right now.”

If these “raids” are striking fear into people who have ignored court orders to leave the country, it’s safe to assume that law-abiding people are okay with that.

“I’m proud to be an American. I’m proud to be part of an America that was built on immigrants. And these immigrants start 2/3 of all new businesses in this country because those immigrants are willing to take a risk on the American dream for their families and for the communities around them, just like my parents had a dream for me.”

Why emotion instead of fact, Councilwoman? We are all part of an America that was built on immigrants. We all value the contributions of immigrants, including our own forefathers.

“They reinvest in our communities by supporting and sponsoring soccer teams and baseball teams and little leagues, and I’m very proud of that legacy. The Statue of Liberty says: Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. That is the America that I believe in. those are the American values that I hold to.

“I hope you join me in ensuring the safety of everyone in this community, because everyone here helps make sure that our community will have a brighter future. Thank you.”

Your constituents hold to those values, too. Using false, inflammatory rhetoric aimed at dividing the residents of one of the most community-minded small towns in the country instead of seeing what can be done to join together and face challenges is despicable. Councilwoman Luevanos should be censured for her violation of the Code of Ethics and encouraged to focus on the real challenges facing our city in the areas of economic development, stagnant city revenues, and get to the bottom of whatever the problems are in the zoning, permitting, and inspections department that are leading businesses to abandon projects in the city.