Sheriff Honsal voices his opinions on why he opposes Measure K during an open forum at HSU on Oct 24. | Photo by Tony Wallin

Sheriff discusses Measure K

Centro Del Pueblo holds forum between Sheriff and community
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Centro Del Pueblo holds forum between Sheriff and community

Humboldt County’s Sheriff William Honsal remained the only one who openly opposed Measure K after leading advocates held an open forum to discuss immigration and public safety.

“If you pass Measure K it will give a false sense of security,” Honsal said.

Elizabeth Phillips of Centro Del Pueblo, a non-profit organization that first proposed the idea of a sanctuary measure for Humboldt County, mediated the forum of five panelists on Oct. 24.

Some of the panelists included the author of Measure K, Erik Kirk, as well as Humboldt State University students Anayeli Auza and Monica Garcia. The community audience and panelists support the ballot measure, with the exception of Honsal.

“There’s a large number of community members who need safety,” Phillips said. “People need sanctuary to live.”

Phillips said the forum with Honsal was needed because the media was publishing misleading information about Measure K. She said California’s state sanctuary law, SB 54, and Measure K are portrayed as the same in the media.

The County Administrations Office reported false information involving costs of Measure K and The Times Standard has since had to make corrections on their misreporting of Measure K.

Phillips said in the heart of true political debate and policy change, they wanted community members to be able to ask the sheriff questions.

“We thought an open forum would be great way to bridge communication,” Phillips said.

Throughout the forum Honsal said Measure K would protect violent criminals and restrict the level of security.

However Kirk, the lawyer who wrote the measure, said that nowhere in the writing does it prevent law enforcement from arresting criminals.

Kirk said the measure would actually encourage the undocumented community to reach out to law enforcement involving crimes committed. Kirk said Measure K isn’t just about immigration policy, its about values.

“Immigration Laws are basically a form of Jim Crow laws,” Kirk said.

Kirk said if passed, Measure K will be the first immigration measure passed by ballot and not legislation. Kirk said the measure is to keep criminal law enforcement separate from immigration. He said being an immigrant doesn’t make you a criminal and the measure will help people on a local level. He said the more that sanctuary measures pass, the more federal government will pay attention to them. Kirk said Humboldt County could be the first of many for passing such a historical measure.

“We want continuity,” Kirk said. “Measure K will build trust.”

Honsal said the Sheriff’s department doesn’t communicate with anybody but violent felons when involving undocumented citizens and they don’t communicate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement upfront. He then contradicted his statement by saying certain situations are reserved for working with ICE agents such as drug trafficking.

Kirk argued if the crime involves drugs then why doesn’t the sheriff work with the DEA instead of calling ICE. Kirk said if a citizen is arrested and serves their time they return home but for the same crime an undocumented citizen will get an extra punishment from ICE. Kirk said the sheriff is not a judge or jury.

“Deportation is not a solution, just a punishment,” Kirk said.

Scholars Without Borders student peer mentor Christina Molina Ceja said coming from a family of immigrants you see this issue differently. She said Honsal’s comments didn’t seem genuine and appeared scripted.

Ceja said if he had more engagement with the community he could have created a healthier space for dialogue. Despite the sheriff’s decision to oppose Measure K, Ceja said she has witnessed an increase of support for Measure K.

“This is a big topic and a lot more people are for it compared to a month ago,” Ceja said.

Phillips said we shouldn’t wait until people are half-decimated to bring policy change. The 6,000 signatures needed to get Measure K on the ballot has greatly increased in support. Phillips said policy comes with little steps where people want change and feelings of the community are all out in the open.

“We need heart, we need soul,” Phillips said. “That is what will change America for the better.”

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