SB54 California Family Values Act is still the law in California according to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.Posted by Simi Valley City Councilmember Ruth Luevanos on Saturday, July 13, 2019
Simi Valley City Council member Ruth Luevanos, a political progressive, has sparked an uproar in the sizably conservative town over a video she posted on Facebook advising immigrants of their legal rights prior to recent ICE raids.
Luevanos said she’s received at least one death threat on her individual City Council Facebook page which she reported to the Simi Valley Police Department. She said it stated that she should be “executed.”
The first-term council member said Facebook has removed other posts on her page for violating its rules, including threats of violence.
Police are conducting additional patrols past Luevanos’ residence. And they will have an extra presence at Monday night’s council meeting, which promises to be a fiery one with both her critics and supporters expected to show up and speak.
Some of those critics are considering launching a recall campaign against her. A Facebook page, “Recall Ruth Luevanos,” has already been started.
Simi Valley social media is abuzz with posts about her video, many of them critical, but some supportive.
Her critics charge that she encourages “lawlessness” in the video. Her supporters say she did nothing wrong and is being targeted for racial reasons, noting that she’s the first Latina elected to the council.
But Glen Becerra, a Latino, served on the City Council for 20 years, from 1998-2018.
“I’m very upset,” Luevanos said in an interview Monday. “I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, but I do expect people to be civil.
“I didn’t anticipate the death threats,” said Luevanos, who last year successfully ran for the council as a progressive, reflecting the city’s changing political and ethnic demographics.
“To have to tell my son that he can’t walk to his friend’s house because I fear for his safety is ridiculous,” she said. “I just don’t understand ... this incitement of violence.”
Police Chief Dave Livingstone said the death threat against Luevanos “said something like ‘treason is punishable by death’ and stuff like that, so we’re watching out for those things.
'You have rights'
Luevanos made the video, which is three minutes and 38 seconds, in her City Hall office and posted it on her City Council member Facebook page July 13. That was a day before federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents were to begin rounding up more than 2,100 immigrants nationwide with deportation orders.
She said she made the video “to inform people of their rights,” noting that other public officials, including California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, also informed the targets of the ICE raids of their rights.
Luevanos said that in making the video, she also wanted to assure constituents that California’s emotionally charged sanctuary state measure, Senate Bill 54, was still the law. The bill standardizes non-cooperation policies between California law enforcement agencies and federal immigration authorities.
Like many other progressives, Luevanos advocates abolishing ICE.
She starts the video by reciting some controversial charges made by progressives about ICE detention centers along the U.S.-Mexican border, allegations that have been disputed by ICE supporters.
“Right now, the United States is in the business of running concentration camps,” she says. “They’re asking (detainees) to drink out of toilets. They’re verbally and physically harassing them. And they’re denying them basic sanitary care.”
Showing footage of President Donald Trump, Luevanos calls the ICE raids “a political stunt by our current president to ensure his re-election“ in 2020.
“I’m here to tell you you have rights,” she says, sitting in front of an artist’s depiction of an American flag made to resemble a Mexican serape blanket.
They include a right to an attorney, the right to remain silent, the right not to sign any ICE documents and the right not to open your door to ICE officials, says Luevanos, who has a law degree.
The video ends by showing an official city page stating, “from the office of Simi Valley City Councilwoman Ruth Luevanos.”
A violation of her oath?
One of the biggest critics of Luevanos’ video is fellow Simi Valley City Council member Mike Judge, a Los Angeles Police Department training officer.
Judge said in an interview that Luevanos should have made it “crystal clear” that she was speaking for herself, not the city. He said it would have been better had she posted the video on her private Facebook page, not her City Council member page.
He said he doesn’t use his City Council member Facebook page “to push political stuff out” and that Luevanos was “pandering” to her base, not all the city’s residents.
"Even though most people know my political leanings, when I’m on the dais, I represent everybody in Simi Valley, not just a certain bunch of people,” he said. “On the dais, we’re non-partisan.”
In a July 20 post on the Facebook group Simi Valley Community Forum Simi Strong No Rules, Judge wrote that Luevanos’ video “has shocked and rocked our community more than any other that I know of before.”
“The message in the video to actively resist arrest and obstruct justice is the absolute wrong message,” Judge said, stressing that he was speaking for himself and not the city. “Keep in mind, she was giving instructions to people who have broken the law and have been ordered by our courts to be deported or they have applied for asylum and been denied and ordered to be deported.”
“I’m a cop,” he said in the interview. “Been a cop for 29 years. There’s no way I can get my head wrapped around anybody who tells people how to break the law.
“That, actually, in my opinion, kind of ... violates that oath you took as an elected official,” he said.
As for the death threat Luevanos received, Judge said, “I would implore all people to use civility and definitely don’t commit any crimes against people because they voice an opinion that’s different from yours. Don’t be stupid.”
Judge said he’s not in favor of a recall effort.
“To put the city through a recall — it’s traumatic, it’s expensive,” he said. “Just wait for when she runs for re-election.”
Former Simi Valley City Council member Barbra Williamson was scheduled on Wednesday night to attend a private meeting of Simi Valley residents who have formed a committee to discuss the possible recall effort.
“I have to hear all of the arguments” before deciding whether to support a recall, said Williamson, who sat on the council for 20 years from 1992-2012. “I’m not looking forward to a recall, but if that’s the nature of the beast, and if that’s what the residents of our community want to do, then we need to find that out.”
Luevanos said she suspects talk of a recall campaign is indeed racial-based.
“Given how some people have reacted to me ... there’s a part of me that feels it’s racial,” she said. “They’re upset that I got elected period.”
Simi’s changing demographics
Despite Simi Valley being traditionally conservative, the gap between registered Republicans and registered Democrats is narrowing, according to data from the Ventura County Elections Division.
Even so, registered Republicans continue to outnumber registered Democrats, according to the just-released 2019 State of the Region report from the Ventura County Civic Alliance.
In 2018, 39% of the city’s registered voters were Republican, 30% were Democrat and the remaining 31% had no party preference, the report states.
And Simi Valley has a higher percentage of registered Republicans than any other city in Ventura County, according to the report.
Simi Valley’s ethnic demographics are also changing.
In 2000, 72.7% of the people counted in the city were non-Hispanic whites, a number that fell in 2016 to 59.1%, according to the Southern California Association of Governments, using U.S. Census and Nielsen Co. data. Simi Valley’s Hispanic or Latino population was 16.8% in 2000, but increased to 25.9% in 2016, the data showed.
Monday’s Simi Valley City Council meeting will start at 6:30 p.m. in the council’s City Hall chambers, 2929 Tapo Canyon Road.
Published by Mike Harris, Ventura County Star
Mike Harris covers the East County cities of Simi Valley and Thousand Oaks, as well as transportation countywide. You can contact him at email@example.com or 805-437-0323.