Council Moves to Counteract Trump’s Immigration Policies

February 9, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles City Council Wednesday approved three motions aimed at counteracting new federal policies on immigration.

In 10-0 votes, the council moved to draw up a plan preparing the city for a possible loss of federal funds; to have the city attorney draft an ordinance that would prevent city employees from participating in any program to register citizens based on their religion; and to move forward with a plan to contribute $2 million to a legal defense fund for immigrants facing deportation.

In light of President Donald Trump’s threat to cut federal funding to so-called “sanctuary cities,” the council voted to have staff assemble a list of federal funding the city receives and also draw up a plan to address the budgetary shortfall that would result from the loss of federal funds.

While not fitting the typical definition of a sanctuary city, where immigrants residing in the country illegally are shielded from federal authorities, the Los Angeles Police Department for decades has followed Special Order 40, which states officers will not detain a person for the sole purpose of determining their immigration status.

The motion in particular mentions Special Order 40 and directs staff to prepare for the possibility that Congress and the president may act to remove federal funds from cities that have similar policies.

The council directed the city attorney to draft an ordinance that would prohibit city employees from participating in any program to register individuals based on their religion or spiritual faith, or that would result indiscrimination on those bases.

The council also instructed staff to prepare a report on implementing a possible $2 million contribution to a legal defense fund for immigrants in the Los Angeles area facing deportation. The idea for the fund was announced by Mayor Eric Garcetti in December and would total $10 million, with $3 million coming from L.A. County and $5 million from the private sector.

The vote on the religious registry comes in response to the idea that Trump may support or implement a registry of all Muslims in the country.

The motion, which was introduced by Councilman Paul Krekorian, states that Trump “engaged in rhetoric that suggested an unfair scapegoating of Muslim Americans based solely on their faith. Our city should take these statements and actions seriously, and we should never tolerate or accept them. We must never facilitate or cooperate with such an abrogation of our most cherished values.”

Trump was asked about a Muslim registry by reporters during the campaign and on several occasions suggested that he supported the idea.

In November 2015, when asked by an NBC reporter if he would implement a registry as president, he said, “I would certainly implement that, absolutely.”

After the election, a spokesman for Trump issued a statement maintaining that the president never advocated for the idea of a Muslim registry.

It is unclear if Los Angeles could face a loss of federal funds, since Trump’s executive order declares that sanctuary jurisdictions would be determined by the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

However, Los Angeles’ status as a sanctuary city may be decided by the state, as Trump threatened in a Fox News interview last weekend to cut funding to all of California if it moves forward with pending legislation that would provide statewide sanctuary for immigrants and prevent local law enforcement
from helping federal authorities on immigration issues.

Trump’s executive order argues that sanctuary jurisdictions harm the country.

“These jurisdictions have caused immeasurable harm to the American people and to the very fabric of our Republic,” Trump’s executive order says.

Trump Travel Ban Denounced as ‘Un-American’

February 2, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and other city leaders appeared at the Islamic Center of Southern California in Koreatown Wednesday to denounce President Donald Trump’s travel ban on seven Muslim-majority nations and offer their support for travelers affected by it.

“We must always protect our country and our people from harm, and should take every necessary measure to secure the homeland,” Garcetti said.

“But banning people based on religion or country of origin is not only un-American, it is dangerously counter to our national security. There are effective, rational, humane and constitutional strategies to keep Americans safe — and that is what we expect the president to offer the American people.”

Trump’s executive order, which he signed Friday, suspends all refugee entries for 120 days, indefinitely blocks all Syrian refugees and bars entry for 90 days to all immigrants from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.

The order sparked protests at airports around the country, including at Los Angeles International Airport, where several thousand protesters shut down vehicle traffic at one point on Sunday.

“The Muslim ban has resulted in chaos and trauma for affected families,” Councilman Mitch O’Farrell said.

“Silence equals complicity. We have a moral obligation to be on the front lines to fight against the scapegoating of any targeted group. When we allow any community to be singled out on the basis of fear and paranoia, the civil rights of everyone are compromised.”


Volunteer immigration lawyers offered aide to passengers detained at LAX under Pres. Donald Trump’s travel ban on seven Muslim-majority nations. Photo by Christian Roberts/Loyola Marymount University

A federal judge in Los Angeles Tuesday issued a restraining order blocking the enforcement of the president’s ban.

The temporary restraining order issued by U.S. District Judge Andre Birotte Jr., allows more than two dozen people from Yemen to fly into Los Angeles International Airport from Djibouti, an African country near Yemen where they were stopped from boarding an LAX-bound flight over the weekend.

But the order also extended beyond the roughly two dozen plaintiffs, with Birotte also barring immigration officials at LAX from blocking the entry of any person from the seven countries included in Trump’s order, as long as they have valid immigrant visas.

City Attorney Mike Feuer also spoke at Wednesday’s event. Feuer said he spent much of Sunday night at the airport, seeking to meet with people who were detained by federal agents as they arrived with valid visas or work permits, but was rebuffed by federal agents.

“We must stand up for an America that embraces refugees, unites families and respects basic rights,” Feuer said.

“I went to LAX this weekend because those values are in jeopardy; the lives and liberty of real people are under threat. Those challenges haven’t gone away in the last couple of days. It continues to be up to us to respond to the voices of fear and division by finding the common ground our nation so
desperately needs.”

Trump has defended his order as necessary to protect the country from terrorists.

After the order was announced, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said, “Coming into this country is still a privilege. We’re the greatest country on Earth. Being able to come to America is a privilege, not a right. And it is our duty and it’s the president’s goal to make sure that everybody
who comes into this country — to the best of our ability — is here because they want to enjoy this country and come in peacefully.”

Board members at the Islamic Center said many Muslims in Los Angeles are concerned about their families being split up due to Trump’s order.

“There is danger, but with the leadership of this assembly today, there is hope,” said Salam Al-Marayati, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council. “We need to preserve our pluralism for true security.”

The Islamic Center also announced plans to hold a rally on Feb. 19.

Council Steps Up to Battle Trump on Immigration

February 2, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

The Los Angeles City Council continues to prepare for a likely battle with President Donald Trump over his aggressive executive orders on immigration.

The council voted late last week to direct the city attorney to report on how it can protect immigrants from expanded federal efforts at deportation, while Councilman Gil Cedillo introduced a motion supporting state Senate Bill 54, known as the California Values Act, which would ensure that state and local resources are not used to fuel mass deportations.

Trump recently issued a number of executive orders that would add thousands of Border Patrol Agents and immigration officers, build a wall on the Mexican border and cut funding for so-called sanctuary cities that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

Trump has threatened to deport up to 3 million immigrants who are in the country illegally, and an estimated 850,000 of Los Angeles’ 3.8 million residents are not currently citizens.

“Beginning today, the United States of America gets back control of its borders,” Trump said Jan. 25 during a speech to employees of the Department of Homeland Security.

The council’s motion asking for the city attorney report also directs the city administrative officer and the chief legislative analyst to prepare a report on the potential economic impacts of deportations on the city’s economy, and recommendations for protecting city programs from “the negative impacts of federal actions that target immigrants.”

LA CommitteeImigration MeetingFredy Cejas

Over 350 people packed the Jan. 25 meeting, held just hours after President Donald Trump announced plans to deport millions of immigrants in the country without legal status. Photo by Fredy Ceja/Office Councilman Gil Cedillo.

The motion, which was approved 10-0, was forwarded to the full council by its Ad Hoc Committee on Immigration, attended by a packed house of more than 350 people during its inaugural meeting on Jan. 25.

About two dozen took their turns speaking to the committee against Trump’s actions announced just hours earlier.

“Our friends in immigrant detention can’t be with us tonight but I’d like to think that they would ask you to respond forcefully and bravely to the xenophobic and racist executive orders that were issued today,” said Jordan Cunnings, a lawyer with Public Counsel who works with immigrants in detention centers.

The executive orders added a significant layer of urgency to the work of the committee, which was created by the council in the days after Trump’s election win in November and is one of a number of moves it has made in opposing the president’s immigration policies.

“What we see today with the executive orders is an attempt to legislate and create laws based on a person’s class, ethnicity or religion, and that’s a dangerous path, something of which we haven’t seen since World War II when we interned a number of Japanese Americans, and we are now on that path,” Councilman Jose Huizar said during the committee’s meeting.

“And who ever would have thought it? I honestly never thought I would see it in my lifetime.”

Trump’s orders could also have significant ramifications for Los Angeles, which receives roughly $500 million in federal support annually.

While not fitting the typical definition of a “sanctuary city,” Los Angeles has a policy of separating the work of the Los Angeles Police Department from that of federal immigration officials, and it is not clear if that would put it in danger of losing its federal funding.

Trump’s orders declare that “sanctuary jurisdictions” would be determined by the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

Even as the meeting was ongoing, more news trickled in. Councilwoman Nury Martinez announced she received a news alert on her phone that said Trump will publish a weekly list of crimes committed by immigrants in the country without legal permission as a way to pressure sanctuary cities.

“If that is not a declaration of war and intimidation, I don’t know what is,” Martinez said.

Representatives from the Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles Unified School District and the Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees also addressed the committee.

LAPD Deputy Chief Robert Arcos gave the council a report on the department’s Special Order 40, a policy dating to 1979 that states officers will not detain a person for the sole purpose of determining their immigration status.

The immigration committee passed a motion voicing support for Special Order 40, which outlines the Los Angeles Police Department’s decades-old policy of officers not instigating police activity for the sole purpose of determining an individual’s immigration status.

The committee also approved a declaration of opposition to any federal policy that would reverse immigration relief created under President Barack Obama’s administration and a request for a report from the city attorney on the legal efforts the city can take to protect the immigrant community from expanded deportations.

The council and Mayor Eric Garcetti have also committed $2 million to a $10 million legal defense fund for immigrants facing deportation.

“With the County of Los Angeles home to 1 million of the estimated 11million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, and the majority of those immigrants intertwined in all levels of life here in Los Angeles — including social, civic and economic — the deportation of any sizable percentage of that community would have a devastating impact on those immigrants, their children, as well as potentially, the city’s economy,” the motion states.

Trump Presidency Comes With Uncertainty – Let’s Hope that Changes

January 19, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

The country will be holding its collective breath Friday as Donald Trump is sworn in as the 45th president of the United States.

In keeping with tradition, the inauguration will be filled with pomp and circumstance, including a parade and grand balls and parties attended by many of the country’s elite and dignitaries from around the world.

But many across the country, fans and detractors alike, will spend this inauguration weekend waiting for the next shoe to drop in the constant turmoil and unrest that seems to follow our soon-to-be-president.

From all over the U.S., trains, cars, bused and planes will carry loads of people headed to the nation’s capital to take part in inauguration activities – which this time around will also include what some speculate will be an unprecedented number of protests.

Whether here at home or in Washington D.C., for many the next few days will be filled with anticipation or anxiety as the mystery of what a Donald Trump presidency means to regular people continues.

Mr. Trump has said he will continue to use Twitter to communicate with the American people, bypassing traditional and informative communication tools like press conferences with the media, which he calls “dishonest” and “very unfair” to him.

Because our next president has such a strong aversion to providing details on the myriad of proposals and presidential actions he says he will undertake to “make America great again,” it seems that the people he was elected to serve will have to ascertain his policies by putting together clues from his Tweets, 140 characters at a time.

We wonder if when Mr. Trump takes the Oath of Office, will he deliver a strong “I do,” or will he add a caveat?

And what about his acceptance speech? Will it put forth a vision for the country that will inspire Americans to leave behind the anti-immigrant, xenophobic, misogynist and anti-media rhetoric that took root during his campaign for the country’s highest office, bitterly dividing the country?

Or will he continue these attacks and continue to antagonize both our allies and our enemies?

And what about on Monday, his first official “business” day in office, will President Trump finally unveil details of his plan to replace his predecessor’s landmark health care plan, the Affordable Care Act?

Will Monday bring a start to his promise to deport the millions of people in the country without legal status, including the 750,000 Dreamers who were brought to the country illegally as children, have grown up here and call the U.S. their home?

While many were inspired by his campaign rhetoric promising tremendous change, his success will rely on the details that have so far evaded a public airing.

Republican lawmakers have already pushed through their plans to cut Medicaid by $14 billion, as Trump said he would do.

It is our hope that both the president and Republican Congress will think long and hard about how they proceed, and that they spend more time focusing on building than destroying.

We don’t believe that the millions of Americans who voted against Trump for president and even some who voted for him, are in the mood to accept the prospect of losing any of the rights, freedoms or  benefits they now enjoy.

We are holding our breath as we wait to hear what the new administration means when it says all American will have access to health care insurance, because they seem to be forgetting the ‘affordable’ part of that phrase.

Americans have many ways to influence the Senate and the House of Representatives, including writing their representatives and telling them they do not approve of their actions.

Over the next few days, people all over the country will take to the street to protest what they fear will be Trump following through on promises to dismantle many of the gains made during the last 8 years.

We urge them to voice their concerns loudly, as is their constitutional right and privilege, but to do it responsibly without tearing apart this place we call home.

Lastly, the fact is that mid-term elections take place in two years, and the most important thing any of us can do in preparation – whether you are a Trump supporter or not – is to stay informed and vote.

Republicans have a super majority in both the House and Senate, but that could change the next time we go to the polls.


Trump Slams Media at First Press Conference Since Election

January 12, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

During his first press conference as President-elect Wednesday, Donald Trump denied any involvement in cyber attacks by Russia during the election as suggested by an intelligence report published by some news organizations. At the same time, he lashed out again at certain media outlets, calling one “trash” and repeatedly ignoring a reporter’s questions.

“A thing like that should have never been written, it should never have been had and it should certainly never been released,” Trump said referring to an intelligence report that points to him as a possible accomplice in Russia’s hackings of American information systems.

“President (Vladimir) Putin and Russia put out a statement today that this fake news was indeed fake news. They said it totally never happened,” Trump said to the hundreds of reporters gathered for his first press conference in months.

The president-elect also harshly criticized news outlets that published the information Tuesday, among them Buzzfeed and CNN. He deemed it a “scandal” for that document to have seen the light of day.

“Buzzfeed is a failing pile of garbage”, Trump said, adding that CNN is “going out of their way to build it up” referring to the accusations of the deals with Russia.

“Not you. Your organization is terrible. Quiet. Don’t be rude. No, I’m not going to give you a question. You are fake news,” Trump said to reporter Jim Acosta as he attempted to ask if Trump could deny that neither of his campaign officials has met with Russian representatives before the November 8 elections. Another journalist finally was able to address the question to which Trump did not respond clearly.

For the first time, however, Trump did say that Moscow is responsible for hacking the Democratic Party during the Presidential Election, but went on to criticize the party and government agencies for their lax security in preventing such intrusions.

“Hacking is bad and it shouldn’t be done,” Trump affirmed. “As far as hacking, I think it was Russia,” the president-elect said, accepting the findings of intelligence agencies that the Russian government was behind the release of damaging information retrieved from Democratic Party emails.

Trump said such intrusions would not take place once his administration takes over, adding that he has put together a team of highly reputable cyber security experts to make sure Russia, China and any other hackers are stopped.

“We have some of the greatest computer minds anywhere in the world that we’ve assembled … and we’re going to put those minds together and we’re going to form a defense,” he explained.

As for the wall he promised to build along the U.S.-Mexico border, Trump insisted that he will follow through and that Mexico will pay for it, in one form or another.

“I don’t feel like waiting a year or a year-and-a-half,” he said, adding he plans to move on it quickly.

“Mexico in some form…will reimburse us for the cost of the wall…whether it’s a tax or whether it’s a payment. But it will happen,” he emphasized.

Trump also sought to clarify that he will give up control of his businesses, turning them over to his two adult sons and a business partner, but added he will not sell his brand or give up his assets.

“My two sons (Donald Jr. and Eric) will continue to oversee my company in a professional manner, and they will not consult anything with me,” he clarified as he stood in front of a pile of manila folders that he said contain the details of his decision.

His lawyer, Sheri Dillon, further explained that the Trump’s businesses will not establish new business deals overseas during his presidency and that the domestic operations will be scrutinized to avoid conflicts of interest.

Trump again said he will not release his tax returns, because “the only ones that are interested in them are reporters.”

He answered questions from reporters for more than half an hour, ending the press conference in typical Trump style:

“If my kids don’t do a good job with the Trump organization, I will tell them: ‘You’re fired,’” he said, referring to his well-known catchphrase from the TV show “The Apprentice.”

Hate Crimes Are Up — But the Government Isn’t Keeping Good Track of Them

November 17, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

In 2015, the authorities in California documented 837 hate-crime incidents, charting a surge in offenses motivated by religious intolerance toward Muslims and Jews, while crimes against Latinos grew by 35 percent.

Last week, shortly after Donald J. Trump was elected the country’s next president, the Southern Poverty Law Center put up a form on its website encouraging people to share details about potential hate crimes. By the next day, they’d received about 250 reports – more than they’re used to seeing in six months.

Then on Monday, the FBI released its latest national tabulation of hate crimes, data that showed an overall uptick of 6.8 percent from 2014 to 2015. The accounting, drawn from information passed on to the bureau by state and local law enforcement agencies, charted a 67-percent increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes.

The mix of information – state level, anecdotal, federally collected, dating from two years ago to last week – is sure to fuel the country’s evolving conversation and concern about the potential for violence in a divided America. Already, those worried about the consequences of Trump’s triumph have seized on some of the reports to stoke worry about emboldened white nationalists. And Trump’s supporters have moved quickly to try and debunk the swirl of alleged incidents of intimidation and violence that have surfaced in social media

But even in the early stages of what promises to be a prolonged focus on crimes colored by prejudice and politics, there appears to be one irrefutable truth: the data is deeply flawed.

James Comey, the director of the FBI, said as much even as he announced the bureau’s latest batch of numbers.

“We need to do a better job of tracking and reporting hate crimes to fully understand what is happening in our communities and how to stop it,” Comey said.

More than 3,000 state and local law enforcement agencies don’t report hate crimes to the FBI as part of its annual national survey of crime in America. Professor Brian Levin, who heads the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, said the entire state of Hawaii fails to file any such reports.

And many of the law enforcement agencies that do choose to participate do not appear to be particularly rigorous about documenting hate crimes and passing that information onto the federal authorities.

“A lot of agencies just submit a piece of paper saying they had no hate crimes,” added Levin, noting that the vast majority of police and sheriff’s departments reported no hate crimes last year.

The data appears particularly spotty in much of the South, a region with a long history of racial strife. Police in Mississippi reported zero hate crimes in 2015. In Arkansas, the number was eight. In Alabama, it was 12.

It seems the number of hate crimes on college campuses is also undercounted by the FBI. The most recent statistics gathered by the U.S. Department of Education appear to show at least twice as many offenses occurring at colleges and universities as the FBI data.

The FBI “data system is of little help to authorities who investigate and track hate crimes,” wrote Ronald L. Davis, head of the Justice Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, in an essay published earlier this year. “This is a significant problem because, if the authorities do not know how many hate crimes are committed, they cannot get an accurate picture of whether hate crime laws are effective, which can lead to fewer resources allocated to combatting hate crimes.”

An FBI spokesperson acknowledged that nearly 20 percent of law enforcement agencies don’t participate in the program, but said the bureau was working “to improve the data collection.”

A key problem, said Phyllis Gerstenfeld, author of a well-known book on hate crimes, is that the FBI has no legal mechanism to compel law enforcement agencies to file crime reports or ensure that they submit accurate information.

Still, some states are doing an admirable job, noted Gerstenfeld, a criminology professor at California State University, Stanislaus. In California, for example, police officers receive training on hate crimes as part of their initial education at the police academy, which can help officers identify bigotry-driven offenses. California law requires police and sheriff’s deputies to closely monitor hate crimes and share their findings with both the California Attorney General and the FBI.

In total, the FBI documented 5,850 hate-crime incidents in the report it issued Monday, most targeting people on the basis of race or ethnicity, religious affiliation or sexual orientation. For some, the surge in crimes against Muslims was not surprising.

“It confirms what we’ve been seeing on the ground since late last year – a spike in hate crimes against Muslims,” said Ibrahim Hooper, communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, an advocacy group.

Since Trump claimed the presidency on Nov. 8, social media has been deluged with first-person accounts of racist incidents and attacks on Muslims, prompting BuzzFeed to compile a listicle titled “Here Are 26 Reported Racist Incidents After Donald Trump’s Victory.” This catalog of abuse included graffiti (lots of swastikas, and, in upstate New York, an exhortation to “Make America White Again”); violence (an African-American college student assaulted in Ohio); and intimidation in myriad forms (black students receiving online invitations to a lynching in Pennsylvania, a Muslim woman who was told “Your time’s up, girlie” on the New York subway, etc.).

Oren Segal, the director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, believes it’s too early to tell if reports are higher than normal because incidents are happening more frequently or because people are simply more aware of them. But he said the direct connection to a single politician is unique. “The fact that so much of it is being linked to our presidential campaign is very, very disturbing,” he said.

Heidi Beirich, director of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project, agreed.

“This is way out of the norm,” she said of the striking number of reports collected in a single day last week. “People feel emboldened by Trump.”

A.C. Thompson covers criminal justice issues for ProPublica. He has been a reporter for 12 years, mostly in the San Francisco Bay area. Ken Schwencke is a journalist and developer building news apps for ProPublica’s Electionland project. See his full article here.


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