Concerns about immigration policies and how federal positions are shifting took center stage at a final town hall meeting hosted by Merced City Council members and the city’s staff.
Nearly 30 people addressed the City Council at Tenaya Middle School at the event Thursday night, and many questioned how Merced will handle immigration policy proposals. Many spoke to council members in Spanish and their comments were translated into English.
Victor Gonzalez, a student at Alicia Reyes Elementary School, asked the council to protect his family so he wouldn’t be afraid to attend school.
Reynaldo Cervantes, a college student who works in the fields, asked if Merced police officers would help enforce President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.
Each of the council members said they were willing to meet with community organizers to discuss a policy to become a sanctuary city.
“That will certainly be a thoughtful conversation that we have,” Mayor Mike Murphy said.
Council members Kevin Blake and Matt Serratto – who work with the Merced County Sheriff’s Office and District Attorney’s Office, respectively – sought to assuage worries.
“I assure you that local law enforcement in no way, shape or form will be indiscriminately rounding up people and deporting them,” Blake said. “That’s not what we do.”
Serratto also said the local court system often aids people if they are undocumented, and law enforcement officers “don’t care if you’re undocumented or not.”
Most officers want people to “come out of the shadows” if they are victims or so they can be witnesses.
During the town hall, the last of three scheduled in different parts of the city, residents also voiced concerns about youth services and parks.
Council member Josh Pedrozo said the key to boosting youth activities is partnerships between the city and organizations.
“We need to look at how we can work together versus what you can do for me,” he said.
Many people specifically complained about the restrooms at McNamara Park either being locked or dirty.
Alexander Salas, a teen member of the city’s Youth Council, encouraged residents to join the council in a bimonthly park cleanup event in March.