Protest Planned for OC Human Relations Gala Honoring OC’s Anti-Immigrant Sheriff

Sandy deserves whatever the equivalent of a “Razzie” is for public servants. Photo by John Gilhooley

OC Human Relations is hosting its first awards gala this evening in Anaheim since last year’s departure of Rusty Kennedy, the longtime head of the nonprofit. The honorees at the event hosted at the City National Grove include longtime immigrant rights activist Minerva Gomez, Newport Harbor High School’s Bridges program (where racial tensions have flared since the presidential election) and a tribute to Kennedy. Also taking home an award tonight in the category of community policing is…OC Sheriff Sandra Hutchens?!?!

In describing the honoree, the retiring sheriff is billed as a public servant who has “dedicated her service to the ideals of transparency, civilian oversight and community-orientated policing.” Sandy is further hailed as a “straight-talking, honest, and open leader.” The award and the adulation is sure to make watchers of the OC Snitch Scandal groan with disdain, especially with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California suing Sandy alleging her department’s use of a secret jailhouse information operation trampled all over the constitution and state laws. 

And then, there’s immigration. Several immigrant rights organizations, local activists groups and a labor union signed a letter delivered yesterday asking OC Human Relations to reconsider their honoree. The letter noted Hutchens’ defense of its 287(g) agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) until being the last county in the state to hang on to the deportation program before reluctantly scrapping it under the California Values Act. And speaking of SB 54, the sheriff has publicly made her support of California’s anti-sanctuary state revolt known through statements and actions, such as publishing inmate release information. Not to mention that under Hutchens’ watch, Theo Lacy Jail has been sharply criticized as one of the nation’s worst immigrant detention facilities–one she was able to secure more bed space for ICE. 

“In the context of hate-mongering and immigrant scapegoating we are confronting today, these divisive politics must be denounced,” the letter stated. “We urge you to avoid transforming your gala into a platform to honor the politicians who have sided with the politics of hate in OC and undermined the public safety and unity of our community.” The National Day Laborers Organizing Network, OC Immigrant Youth United and the Service Employee International Union (SEIU) United Service Workers West are just a few of the letter’s 10 signatories. 

But as of press time, the plea has proven to be unpersuasive. The ceremony plans to continue as scheduled with Hutchens receiving her award tonight.

“We are aware that community members have well-articulated concerns over decisions and policies the Sheriff has authored,” Alison Edwards, CEO of OC Human Relations, wrote the Weekly. She clarified that Hutchens is being specifically honored for having created an Interfaith Advisory Council. “The Advisory Council is a venue where the Sheriff has heard directly from people affected by immigration policy and enforcement, as well as those targeted by religious intolerance, hate crimes/incidents and bigotry in general.” Edwards, who the Weekly profiled earlier this year, noted the organization’s long history of bringing people together who don’t always agree with each other, but also recognizes that their way isn’t the only way in valuing the activist efforts of groups such as those who wrote her. 

With their letter unheeded, activists plan to protest the OC Human Relations Awards gala outside the City National Grove of Anaheim tonight. Hopefully, OC’s liberal class will be as nice to them as they’ll be to Sandy tonight.

Gabriel San Román is from Anacrime. He’s a journalist, subversive historian and the tallest Mexican in OC. He also once stood falsely accused of writing articles on Turkish politics in exchange for free food from DönerG’s!

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