An Auschwitz survivor confronted one of the nation’s top immigration officials and a local sheriff at a California town hall Tuesday night.
Bernard Marks, 87, addressed Immigration and Customs Enforcement Acting Director Thomas Homan and Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, a supporter of President Trump. Jones had invited Homan to the public forum to discuss address the community’s concerns about ICE’s collaboration with local law enforcement.
“Thank you for the forum that you have here tonight,” said Marks. “When I was a little boy in Poland, for no other reason but for being Jewish, I was hauled off by the Nazis. And for no other reason, I was picked up and separated from my family, who was exterminated in Auschwitz. And I am a survivor of Auschwitz and Dachau.”
“I spent five and a half years in concentration camps,” he added, “for one reason and one reason only — because we picked on people — and you as the sheriff, who we elected as sheriff of this county — we did not elect you for sheriff of Washington, D.C. It’s about time you side with the people here. And when this gentleman [Homan] stands up there and says he doesn’t go after people, he should read today’s [Sacramento] Bee. Because in today’s Bee, the Supreme Court Justice of California objected to ICE coming in and taking people away from the courts. Don’t tell me that this is a lie.”
“You stand up here, Mr. Jones. Don’t forget — history is not on your side.”
Marks drew loud applause for his statements before Holman responded.
“We don’t arrest people on schools ground, in churches, in hospitals,” said the ICE director. “We will arrest people in courthouses. If there’s a public safety threat in a courthouse, we’ll continue to arrest in a courthouse. However, we don’t go to courthouses looking for victims; we don’t go to courthouses looking for witnesses. As I said at the beginning, we’ve got specific targets, specific location, so it’s a targeted enforcement operation. So when we go to a courthouse — this is the truth — we’re looking for someone that’s been convicted of a crime and has a criminal history, and the courthouse is the last place we go. We’d much rather go to a jail to get him-”
Shouting attendees cut off Holman, who afterwards continued, “This is a country of immigrants, but this is a country of laws — laws that I am sworn to enforce and that I’m going to continue to enforce, because that’s my job.”
On Monday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions affirmed that state and local authorities who did not cooperate with federal immigration enforcement officials would risk losing federal grant money. Officials in many of these so-called sanctuary cities have vowed to continue their approach to addressing illegal immigration, arguing that local law enforcement officers can better work in their communities if they don’t help deport people for minor crimes.
ICE agents arrested men leaving a Virginia church shelter in February. Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said last week that the number of sexual assault and domestic violence reports made by the city’s Latino residents has dropped in 2017 due to worries that illegal immigrants could risk deportation by interacting with police or testifying in court.