(JTA) – A Holocaust survivor known for speaking to schools about his experiences confronted U.S. federal and local officials about immigration arrests.
Bernard Marks earned loud cheers on Tuesday after he confronted the acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Thomas Homan, at a public forum in Sacramento, California.
“When I was a little boy in Poland, for no other reason but for being Jewish, I was hauled off by the Nazis,” Marks said, according to video posted by the Huffington Post. “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.”
Marks was interrupted by loud cheers, in what the Sacramento Bee described as a room packed with hundreds of people protesting co-operation between local law enforcement and federal officials seeking to arrest and deport undocumented workers convicted of crimes.
Convening the forum was Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, a backer of Donald Trump, according to the Bee, and Homan.
“I spent five and a half years in concentration camps, for one reason and one reason only: Because we picked on people,” Marks continued after the cheers. “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.”
Marks challenged claims by Homan and Jones that they solely went after convicted criminals, noting that California state courts had ordered federal officials to keep away from courthouses, where there have been reports of arrests of non-criminals.
“Don’t tell me that this is a lie,” Marks said. “We stand up here, Mr. Jones, don’t forget. History is not on your side.”
Marks sat down to another eruption of applause and cheers.
In response, Homan said his agents only arrest convicted criminals at courthouses and leave alone witnesses and victims.
Trump administration officials have said that the main goal of the sweeps is to arrest convicted criminals, but they have also said they will not instruct ICE agents not to arrest non-criminals.
Marks, 87, is known in the region for the talks he gives at schools and other venues about his Holocaust experience.
Also attending the meeting was Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, who is Jewish. Steinberg has taken a lead in the movement of sanctuary cities, which use legal means to keep federal officials from arresting undocumented immigrants. Trump has said he will cut off federal funds to sanctuary cities.