DACA: Renew! Renew! Renew!

September 28, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

With just one week until the window closes for DACA recipients to renew expiring permits, immigrant rights groups, government and school officials and immigration attorneys are out in force with a united message: Renew, renew, renew!

Their message is directed at those whose permits will expire by March 5, 2018, but who now only have until Oct. 5 to get their renewal applications into U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Failure to meet the deadline — delivered not postmarked — will cause the recipient to lose his or her temporary protections from deportation, as well as the social security number and work permit that come with DACA status.

The deadline is included in Pres. Donald Trump’s memorandum of Sept. 5 ending the DACA initiative. The president has ordered a “phased out” end to the Obama-era program, saying it’s now up to Congress to come up with legislation to provide some sort of legal status for young immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.

The short notice has many recipients scrambling for legal and financial assistance. Several groups are offering free legal assistance and providing grants or micro-loans to help cash-strapped applicants pay the $495 renewal application fee.

During a Facebook Live event Monday hosted by the Los Angeles County Office of Immigrant Affairs, panelists said money should not be the deciding factor when it comes to deciding whether to reapply.

“If money is the reason you are avoiding submitting your application, money should not be a barrier,” said Julie Mitchell of CARECEN, a nonprofit Central American immigrant rights organization founded in 1983.

“There is a lot of assistance here in LA. County if you can’t come up with the $495,” said Mitchell, explaining that “some schools, contractors with the California Department of Social Services, even some council districts” are offering financial aid. As for going it alone in the application process, Mitchell questioned why someone would make that choice given the availability of free legal and expert advice.

“We have an abundance of resources, people who have stepped up,” she said. “If legal advise is available, why not take advantage?”

Alex Lomeli (pictured) was pleasantly surprised to learn there are grants available to help students like him pay the $496 fee to renew his DACA permit. Without the grant, he would have to work extra hours, which cuts into his school time. (Photo by Carlos Alvarez)

Alex Lomeli (pictured) was pleasantly surprised to learn there are grants available to help students like him pay the $496 fee to renew his DACA permit. Without the grant, he would have to work extra hours, which cuts into his school time. (Photo by Carlos Alvarez)

That’s especially true for anyone who may have a criminal arrest, Mitchell said. Even if there was no conviction, it could hurt you and you should get advise from an attorney.

For students like Alex Lomeli, a student at East Los Angeles College, the financial assistance and resources are a welcome and timely surprise.

“I had no idea grants are being offered,” Lomeli told EGP Monday, adding that in the past he’s had to take on extra work to pay his renewal fee. The extra work takes time from his graphic design studies.

Lomeli is not alone.

There are many students out there who don’t know what resources are available, said Jennifer Marin Esquivel, a volunteer coordinator at CARECEN.

She said her organization has been very busy ever since Trump issued the order to dismantle DACA, telling EGP they have hosted numerous events where applicants were able to ask immigration attorneys for advice and get grants to help pay the renewal application fee.

According to Esquivel, money has been allocated by most districts in Los Angeles County to assist permit holders. This coming Saturday, the Councilman Curren Price in collaboration with CARECEN and the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles will host a workshop where hundreds of grants will be given to DACA recipients that meet the qualifications.

Esquivel said it’s discouraging to think, that during this time of great uncertainty, there are still permit holders who don’t know there are dozens of groups out there offering help.

While the lack of awareness has her concerned, Esquivel said she’s more alarmed by the countless stories of betrayal from families duped out of money by persons hired to shepherd them through the renewal process.

She said she’s met with families who told her they paid an attorney $1,000 or more to process their renewal applications, only to be left empty-handed.

“It’s a crime that many families deal with,” Esquivel said in disgust. “They trust an individual who ends up taking advantage of their generosity.”

For Maribel Arroyo, however, the future is even more uncertain, not tied to whether she gets her renewal application in by the Oct. 5 deadline.

Arroyo’s permit expires in December 2018 and as of now, there is no plan to allow the hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients whose permits expire after March 5, 2018 to reapply.

They will lose their work permits and social security numbers and protections from deportation as soon as their current permit expires.

Arroyo, whose parents brought her from Durango, Mexico to the U.S., works full-time to pay for the University of Phoenix online courses she’s taking. She’s worried losing her status also means losing her job and her chance at a college degree in education and her dream of being an elementary school teacher.

If I can’t work legally, I don’t know how I will be able to afford paying for school, she said.

In the meantime, Arroyo plans to talk with an immigration attorney to explore her options.

“I called the U.S. Immigration Department and they have no answers for me,” says Arroyo in frustration.

“I’m trying to provide a better future for my son and I, but I [could be] getting kicked out of a country I’ve called home since I was ten.

The situation Arroyo and hundreds of thousand of other DACA recipients like her are facing is “unfortunate,” acknowledges Esquivel. “That’s the next fight we have to take on,” she said, referring to efforts to get Congress to pass legislation to fix the status of Dreamers, the name often used to refer to immigrants brought to the country as children.

For many, however, this week the focus across the country is on pushing DACA recipients eligible for a permit renewal to get their applications in before time runs out. Make sure it’s in the mail no later than Oct. 1, advises Ready California, which also offers information on free legal resources and offers grants to cover the cost of the renewal application fee. You can find more information at www.READY-CALIFORNIA.org.

The county’s immigration affairs department has planned another Facebook Live event for Oct. 2, 6pm at www.Facebook.com/LAC4Immigrants. For more information about the “Keep Your DACA” live chats or any of the latest news affecting immigrants, visit the Office of Immigrant Affairs website at oia.lacounty.gov or call (800) 593-8222.

EGP Managing Editor Gloria Alvarez contributed to this story

Trump Supports Plan to Slow Down Legal Immigration

August 3, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

President Donald Trump announced his endorsement on Wednesday of a bill that halves legal immigration in the country over the course of a decade and eliminates United States’ annual Diversity Visa Lottery.

“This represents the most significant reform to our immigration system in half a century,” said Trump during a White House appearance.

The Reforming American Immigration For Strong Employment (RAISE Act), introduced in February by two Republican senators, would reduce the number of legal immigrants allowed in the U.S. by 41 percent in the first year and by 50 percent in year 10, according to the bills’ proponents.

It also slashes the number of refugees who can earn citizenship to no more than 50,000 per year.

“Priority will be given to applicants who speak English, can financially support themselves and their families, and contribute to our economy,” said Trump.

He said the legislation would help “create a merit-based immigration system,” which would “reduce poverty” in the U.S., “raise wages and save taxpayers billions of dollars.”

It will also “ensure that immigrants” who can enter “assimilate into the country, succeed and achieve the American Dream,” Trump added.

The bill was introduced in February by Republican Senators David Perdue and Tom Cotton, who attended Trump’s announcement at the White House Wednesday.

The most significant change would be limiting the ability of new citizens to sponsor other members of their family immigrating to the country, liming sponsorship to spouses or underage children.

Currently, U.S. citizens and permanent residents can sponsor a variety of family members for residency permits, including spouses, parents, siblings, and married adult children.

“Ending family-based immigration is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to halt growing American ethnic diversity that this system has fostered for more than half a century,” Martha Arévalo, executive director at CARECEN Los Angeles said in statement.

“Adult children and siblings already wait years or decades to come to the United States. Eliminating the chance for families to reunite with these relatives is cruel and nonsensical,” she said.

Cotton and Perdue’s plan would allow temporary visas for the elderly parents of U.S. citizens in need of caretaking, but would require the sponsoring child to guarantee the parents support and provide health insurance.

The bill would also eliminate the visa lottery, which allocates about 50,000 visas a year to citizens of countries that traditionally have low immigration rates to the U.S., and would limit the number of refugees received anywhere in the world to 50,000 annually.

“These two programs add little to the overall number of immigrants in the United States. Cutting them leaves no doubt about the racist undertones of this proposal,” according to CARECEN.

“Business owners have long complained that the employment-based immigration system, which the raise bill purports to help, is antiquated and in desperate need of an overhaul,” said Daniel Sharp, the organization’s legal director. “We agree.”

Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard called Trump’s support of the RAISE Act “a cruel and brazen pander to anti-immigrant voices at the expense of American businesses and workers.”

She said, “A person’s value cannot be confined to a set of skills, no matter how much Donald Trump and the authors of the RAISE Act would like you to believe that.”

Roybal-Allard, the ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Appropriations, said Subcommittee, said if the president really wants to help American works, “he could prioritize legislation to bolster job training, create new jobs, and increase wages.” For immigrants and non-immigrants alike, and “reach across the aisle to pass bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform that treats immigrants humanely, keeps families together, secures our borders, and creates a path to citizenship.

“But he hasn’t.”

EGP staff writers contributed to this story.

CA Lawmakers Move to Protect Undocumented Workers

July 20, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

New America Media – If immigration agents show up at a worksite, employers don’t have to let them in.

That is one of the key messages immigrant rights advocates are sending out as a new bill that would increase protections for workers makes its way through committees in the California legislature.

Employers across the country already have certain rights, said Grisel Ruiz, staff attorney of the Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC). “If an employer has ICE agents coming to their workplace, so long as the workplace is private property, they should also keep ICE agents out…unless they have an ICE warrant,” she said.

Ruiz spoke on a national press call this week hosted by New America Media and Ready California.

Proposed legislation in California would go a step further in protecting workers and helping employers navigate what happens when ICE agents show up at their business.

Under the Immigrant Worker Protection Act, AB 450 (David Chiu, D-San Francisco), employers would be required to ask for a warrant before they allow immigration enforcement agents onto the worksite. They would not be able to hand over any private information about workers, such as social security numbers, without a subpoena.

“We might not, in the state of California, be able to tell ICE what to do,” said Michael Young, legislative advocate with the California Labor Federation which, together with SEIU California, sponsored AB 450. “We can’t regulate federal immigration law. But we can regulate employer behavior. We can say that employers have an obligation to protect their workers and they have to take certain actions to make sure those rights are protected.”

Nearly 2.6 million undocumented immigrants live in California, and one in 10 workers in the state is undocumented, according to Young. In some industries, this number is even higher. Forty-five percent of agricultural workers and 21 percent of construction workers in California are undocumented.

This is a large number of people who “could be at risk from worksite raids, and these raids are already happening in the state,” said Young.

Increase in enforcement actions

The Trump administration’s “laser focus” on immigration enforcement has not been accompanied by a change in tactics, noted Ruiz of ILRC.

Cooperation between immigration enforcement and local law officials “continues to be the number one way that individuals are identified and placed in removal proceedings,” she said. ICE is also continuing individualized enforcement, for example going to the home of a specific person they are looking for, and then picking up other people in that home.

But it’s important to remember that everyone, regardless of immigration status, is protected by Constitutional rights, Ruiz continued, including the right to remain silent, to not allow agents into their home or work without a warrant signed by a judge, and to not sign anything before talking to an immigration attorney.

“Trump does not have the resources to go after and deport all 11 some-odd million undocumented people, plus, in the U.S.,” she said. “The likelihood of him picking up the random person, especially who’s never had contact with ICE, is actually quite low.” And even if they do get picked up by ICE, she said, “Many people will have a chance to fight their case.”

Anti-immigrant rhetoric has led to a palpable fear among immigrants, who may now be making decisions based on that fear.

“The irony of all of this is that for many people, that fear may be the greatest impact, in a way,” Ruiz said. “The fear is affecting people at all levels.”

Economic impact of fear

Cal Soto, national workers rights coordinator at the National Day Labor Organizing Network (NDLON) described the mood among day laborers as timid and cautious.

“What I’ve seen is a ton of people who regularly might have made health and safety or wage claims, or filed police reports, saying, ‘It’s not worth it for me,’” said Soto.

He added, “This has an impact on the wages they’re able to negotiate, and the wages of everybody in the community.”

It also may have a chilling effect on consumer spending.

“People are not buying homes. They’re not building their business,” said Mohan Kanungo, director of programs and engagement at Mission Asset Fund. “And that certainly has a large impact that I think remains to be seen for us to quantify.”

Soto described anti-immigrant rhetoric and intimidation as a “campaign to frighten immigrant workers into the shadows and out of the public eye.”

Instead of hiding, he said, immigrant workers must gain knowledge and defense strategies.

Three steps to take now

The Mission Asset Fund recently released a Financial Emergency Action Plan for Immigrants, which gives families and business owners practical tips about how to protect their assets in uncertain times.

First, families can take action to protect their money. This includes opening or maintaining a checking account to have access to funds when needed; setting up online bill pay to make sure bills get paid on time, even if you are detained; different ways to share your checking account with those you trust; setting up online transfers so you can easily wire someone money if you need to; and making sure you are protected from overdraft fees.

Second, families can take steps to protect their belongings, including their car, property and business.

“People are coming to us, asking, ‘How can I give someone control of my business if I am detained?’” said Kanungo. “That’s where we talk a lot about powers of attorney … What can you do now to protect your property or give someone else the ability to make decisions over your property?”

Third, families can take steps to plan for an emergency by protecting their credit, and creating savings goals. So that it doesn’t feel overwhelming, Kanungo suggests starting by saving up a small amount, such as enough money for a month’s worth of groceries, and working up to putting aside enough money to pay for legal fees that one could incur in case of detention.

“It’s not just about the burden of the immigration-related costs,” said Kanungo, “but the dual burden that comes up with maintaining a household with a loss of income from a family member.”

Michael Young of the California Labor Federation hopes that California lawmakers will enact greater protections for immigrant workers in the state.

“We want to make sure we can get these laws and protections on the books as soon as possible,” he said, “to protect as many workers as we can.”

AB 450 passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday with a vote of 5-2. It will next go to Senate Appropriations Committee in late August.

For more information about Mission Asset Fund’s Financial Emergency Action Plan for Immigrants, go to: bit.ly/prepmyfam. For information about Ready California, go to: ready-california.org.

Trump’s Softened Immigration Stance Met with Caution

March 2, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Immigrant advocacy groups demanded concrete and immediate action from Pres. Donald Trump following his comments on his immigration plan Tuesday during his first speech before Congress, as until now he has only managed to instill fear with his executive orders.

“I believe that a real and positive immigration reform is possible…if we are guided by the well-being of American citizens, then I believe Republicans and Democrats can work together to achieve an outcome that has eluded our country for decades,” Trump said to a joint session of Congress.

An official source at the White House told EFE Services that the president thinks both Democrats and Republicans have to “soften their positions” if they want immigration reform to happen.

However, the source did not clarify whether the president is open to considering a path to citizenship or legalization for the young beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) – a program started by former Pres. Barack Obama that has since protected about 750,000 undocumented immigrants from immigrations, as well as allowing them to work legally in the U.S.

Councilman Gil Cedillo told EGP that he is delighted that the Trump Administration is interested in immigration reform, but “will not [hold his] breath.”

“If this Congress was interested in passing some sort of immigration reform, it would have happened already. Much like the President’s healthcare reform idea, we have yet to see details, or an actual plan…ICE raids and intimidation tactics are not the solution,” Cedillo said in a statement emailed to EGP.

Meanwhile, the Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) pledged to keep fighting in favor of immigrants and refugees in court.

“The president’s speech was void and completely divorced from the reality and damage that it has inflicted on the most vulnerable communities in the country,” ACLU said in a statement.

During the speech, Trump referenced Jamiel Shaw II, a young African-American high school student from Los Angeles High School who was murdered by an undocumented gang member in Arlington Heights in 2008. Shaw’s father, who rallied on behalf of Trump during his campaign, was a special guest on Tuesday, along with three other victims of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants.

“We must support the victims of crime,” Trump said, adding that through the creation of an office called VOICE, Victims Of Immigration Crime Engagement, his administration is “providing a voice to those who have been ignored by the media, and silenced by special interests.”

“Trump continues to label immigrants as criminals, an accusation as fake as it is cruel,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice.

Alfonso Aguilar, president of the conservative group Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, declared his support for finding solutions for undocumented immigrants and said in an interview on CNN, “ironically, maybe Trump is the one who can achieve this.”

In his opinion, the president has the confidence of hard-line advocates and could be able to negotiate an agreement.

EGP Staff Writer Stacey Arevalo contributed to this story.


CA Leaders Rebuke Trump’s Orders on Border Wall, ‘Sanctuary Cities’

January 26, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Southland and California elected officials and activists wasted no time today lashing out at President Donald Trump’s executive actions calling for construction of a wall along the Mexican border and slashing funding for so-called “sanctuary” cities that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities and substantially beefing up the ranks and enforcement authority of border agents.

“These are serious times that call for serious solutions,” said Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Los Angeles in response. “Yes, border security is a crucial pillar of comprehensive immigration reform, but a huge wall won’t make us any safer, morally upright, reduce the deficit or energize our economy.

“We need reform that provides real border security, unites families, protects American workers and offers an earned pathway to citizenship — something that Democrats and I will continue to champion in the face of the crazy conservatism of Trump world,” he said.

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., said Trump’s orders will “harm public safety, tear families apart and jeopardize national security.”

“Forcing taxpayers to foot the bill for a wall isn’t a solution, it’s a political gesture,” Harris said. “And telling cities they must deny public safety, education and health care services to children and families living within their jurisdiction will not make us more secure, it will mean fewer crimes reported and more families living in fear.”

Rusty Hicks, executive secretary treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, said the organization would continue to stand in support of the roughly 1 million immigrants without legal status living in Los Angeles County.

“We have already strengthened protections for immigrant workers in collective bargaining agreements,” Hicks said. “Now, with our state legislators and county Board of Supervisors, we will grow the 100 attorneys we have already organized into a much larger force to make sure every immigrant has a lawyer to defend their rights to a fair process.

“For decades, Los Angeles and California have been stronger, more progressive and more prosperous than the rest of the nation,” he said.

“Unfortunately, President Trump has chosen to take our nation down the dark path of division and exclusion.”

Building a border wall was a hallmark of Trump’s presidential campaign, and he continues to insist that although the United States will be moving ahead with construction, Mexico will ultimately foot the bill — something Mexican leaders have steadfastly denied.

“I’m just telling you there will be a payment,” Trump said in an interview with ABC News. “It will be in a form — perhaps a complicated form. And you have to understand what I’m doing is good for the United States. It’s also going to be good for Mexico. We want to have a very stable, very solid Mexico.”

California’s new Attorney General, Xavier Becerra, issued a statement saying, “It is important to put these White House executive actions in context.”

According to Becerra, executive orders do not change existing law nor can they contradict existing law. He noted they can be challenged in court for “violating constitutional and legal standards in their enforcement.”

Becerra said his office is “prepared to protect the public safety and general welfare of all Californians as well as their privacy and property rights,” adding the state “will protect the rights of all of its people from unwarranted intrusion from any source, including the federal government.”

Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40) called the president’s actions “ deeply troubling.”

“With today’s executive orders, this president has transformed his anti-immigrant campaign rhetoric into destructive action which is intolerant, fiscally irresponsible, and dangerous, Roybal-Allard said, adding it would force “Local jurisdictions will be forced to choose between their share of federal funding and keeping faith with their local communities.”

Pres. Trump has yet to take action on his promise to deport anyone in the country illegally, especially those with criminal backgrounds, or to reverse former president Barack Obama’s executive actions to protect people brought to the country illegally as children, often referred to as Dreamers.

DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans), temporarily normalized the status of more than 750,000 undocumented immigrants, allowing them to legally work in the           U.S. among other benefits.

Trump’s supporters believed overturning Obama’s two executive orders would be among his first actions after taking office, and were disappointed his action on the border wall Wednesday did not also include an order to end DACA and DAPA.

Sen. Andy Vidak (R-Hanford) said in a written statement Wednesday that he “is encouraged that the Trump Administration and the U.S. Senate are working together to resolve our immigration crisis through consensus legislative action, not executive fiat or alarmist rhetoric.

“Hardcore criminals should rightly be the focus of deportations, not hard-working families and students,” Vidak said.

He said Trump Chief of Staff Reince Priebus has made it clear “Trump has no immediate plans to deport the youngsters, but would instead work with the House and Senate leadership “to get a long-term solution on that issue.”

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said Monday that DACA is “unconstitutional and has to be replaced,” ideally in conjunction with “measurers that ensure that our immigration laws are being enforced.” He said he believes however, that there is broad consensus that Dreamers should not be deported but allowed to stay in the country.

Trump’s actions coincided with the first meeting, scheduled for Wednesday night, of a Los Angeles City Council committee on immigrant affairs.’

Among the items on the panel’s agenda is a reaffirmation of Los Angeles Police Department Special Order 40, which prevents officers from stopping people solely to question them on their immigration status. The department also does not detain people based solely on their immigration status.

Mayor Eric Garcetti, however, said the city does cooperate with immigration authorities, “particularly in cases that involve serious crimes, and always comply with constitutional detainer requests.’’

“What we don’t do is ask local police officers to enforce federal immigration laws, and that’s an official LAPD policy that has been enforced for nearly 40 years,” he said. “That is for everyone’s good, because trust between police and the people they serve is absolutely essential to effective law enforcement.

“Everyone in L.A. should feel safe stepping forward if they have witnessed a crime or been victimized themselves — and immigration status shouldn’t interfere with the cooperation and partnership we need to keep our neighborhoods safe,” Garcetti said.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell reinforced that position Wednesday on behalf of his department. McDonnell said the president’s “executive order does not change the mission of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Our priority continues to be protecting our public … Our department policy clearly states that our deputies do not ask for one’s immigration status. Immigration enforcement remains a federal responsibility.”

Women’s March L.A.: A ‘Celebration of Human Rights’

January 26, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Observers said Women’s March-Los Angeles, which drew a massive crowd that filled the downtown streets around Pershing Square, was the city’s largest demonstration in nearly a decade.

Saturday’s gathering was held in solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington, similar events in cities nationwide and in other parts of the world to protest the presidency and policies of Donald Trump. Worldwide crowds have been estimated at up to three million people.

The size of crowd seemed to eclipse even the expectations of organizers, who estimated at one point that as many as 750,000 people showed up. The Los Angeles Police Department estimated the crowd at “well past one hundred thousand.”

The Los Angeles Fire Department also pegged the crowd at “over 100,000” and said 10 people were assessed by LAFD personnel for non-life-threatening illnesses or injuries, with one person taken to a hospital. On Tuesday, Metro officials reported that roughly 592,000 passengers — 360,000 more riders than on a typical Saturday — boarded its trains.

Women from all walks of life marched to support the rights of all people in Trump era. (Photo by Fred Zermeno)

Women from all walks of life marched to support the rights of all people in Trump era. (Photo by Fred Zermeno)

Whatever the numbers, observers said it was the largest demonstration in downtown Los Angeles since an immigration rights march in 2006 drew an estimated 500,000 people to downtown’s streets.

Police said no arrests were made.

Organizers stressed that the event was non-partisan and not a protest, but a “celebration of human rights.”

(Photo by Fred Zermeno)

(Photo by Fred Zermeno)

The mission statement for the march read, in part, “We stand together in solidarity for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health and our families — recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country.”

That spirit was borne out by peaceful crowds singing “This Land Is Our Land” and a general air of exuberance despite the pedestrian gridlock downtown.

Individuals and groups backing a wide variety of priorities were on hand, advocating for issues ranging from women’s rights to environmental protections, access to healthcare, criminal justice reform, voting rights, immigrant, and LGBTQ rights.

“Women’s rights are human rights,” read many signs.

(Photo by Fred Zermeno)

(Photo by Fred Zermeno)

A 6-year-old being pushed in a stroller by her dad carried a poster board bedazzled with peace signs and glitter reading, “The power of a girl is to change the world.”

Her father was one of many men joining the march, including at least one wearing a pink “pussy hat,” and one of many marchers who brought their children and grandchildren to the rally.

The Washington, D.C., march that sparked local “sister” marches similar to the one in Los Angeles was deliberately planned for the day after President Trump’s inauguration. And many of the individuals and groups taking part opposed Trump and the policies he laid out on the campaign trail and during his transition to office.

This includes possible mass deportations of undocumented immigrants, repealing the Affordable Care Act, a health insurance initiative also known as Obamacare, and repealing funding for Planned Parenthood, the National Endowment of the Arts and humanities programs.

“In a time when we are all wondering what we can do, we can do this … let them hear our voice!” march organizer Deena Katz said in a statement.

(Photo by Fred Zermeno)

(Photo by Fred Zermeno)

Others were more outspoken about their distaste for the new president, with some briefly taking up a chant of “You’re fired,” echoing Trump’s catchphrase from his days hosting “The Apprentice” reality show.

Some carried signs with messages such as, “Not my president” and “Can’t build a wall. Hands too small.”

About five dozen celebrities, including Barbra Streisand, Jane Fonda, Natalie Portman, Kerry Washington, Alfre Woodard, Ariana Grande, Demi Lovato, Jamie Lee Curtis and Laverne Cox signed up to attend the local event.

Trump briefly crossed paths with protestors in Washington, D.C., and posted his reaction on Twitter, in addition to a formal White House statement.

“Watched protests yesterday but was under the impression that we just had an election! Why didn’t these people vote?” the president tweeted.

He also criticized the celebrity participants and the media coverage.

(Photo by Fred Zermeno)

(Photo by Fred Zermeno)

The White House statement singled out Madonna for telling the Washington, D.C. crowd that she thought about “blowing up the White House. But I know that this won’t change anything.”

“Comments like these are absolutely unacceptable,” the statement said.

His defeated opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, posted a tweet that said in part “Thanks for standing, speaking and marching for our values.”

In Los Angeles, public officials were out in force, with many speaking before or after the approximately one-mile march from Pershing Square to City Hall, including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, City Councilmen Paul Koretz and Mike Bonin and former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

They served to underline the fact that this was far from a women-only event.

Residents of all ages joined in. One 74-year-old woman said she was marching for the first time in her life.

“This stirred me,” Linda Fenneman said.

As many as 750,000 people participated in the Women’s March-Los Angeles Saturday. (Photo by Nancy Martinez)

As many as 750,000 people participated in the Women’s March-Los Angeles Saturday. (Photo by Nancy Martinez)

She was joined by Linda Lopez, who said she had protested on behalf of migrant farm workers in 1971 in Calexico and for the civil rights of Native Americans at Wounded Knee in 1973.

“I’ve been protesting for 45, almost 50 years,” Lopez said.

State Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, who was among the speakers on a stage across the street from City Hall, made a plea to protect access to health care.

“I know everything isn’t perfect,” Mitchell said of the Affordable Care Act. “I don’t know about you, but I’m not going backwards … We cannot allow the federal government to replace Obamacare with trumped up care.”

Mitchell was among those who sought to engage the crowd to organize beyond the one-day march.

One woman from a contingent representing the League of Women Voters said they were downtown to educate residents and motivate them to vote for the policies they support.

“Democracy is not a spectator sport,” she said.

(Photo by Fred Zermeno)

(Photo by Fred Zermeno)

Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson told participants that “California is the state that invents the future” and then aimed her remarks directly at Trump, saying, “Two out of every three Californians didn’t vote for you because we know that we stand for what is better and what is good and what is just and what is right in this country.”

Metro officials added service and beefed up security to accommodate the anticipated crowd, though several station platforms were jam-packed with would-be riders as full trains stopped, unable to take on more people.

The diversity of concerns raised by those at the rally was highlighted by the fact that at least one group scheduled its own alternate ending to the day.

AF3IRM and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network left the main march at noon and lead a “Chant Down the Walls” action at the Metropolitan Detention Center.

Another sign of diversity? A plane circled over the downtown area towing a banner that read, “Congratulations President Trump.”


Trump Will Get No Help Deporting Immigrants from LAPD, Says Police Chief

November 17, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

The Los Angeles Police Department will not actively help federal officials apprehend immigrants who are in the country illegally and are “low-level offenders,” even in the face of President-elect Donald Trump’s plans to deport up to 3 million immigrants who have committed crimes, Police Chief Charlie Beck said Tuesday.

The department will still cooperate with federal officials if the immigrant in custody has committed a “serious violent crime,” Beck told reporters at City Hall.

But “the use of local law enforcement for general deportation reasons for low-level offenders is not appropriate,” he said.

While not fitting the typical definition of a “sanctuary city” that shields undocumented immigrants from federal officials, Los Angeles has long had a policy of keeping local police work separate from that of federal immigration officials.

Beck said that as a local law enforcement agency, the police department’s primary goal is to ensure the safety of Angelenos, which depends on officers being trusted by the immigrant community.

“Over 500,000 Angelenos, people who live in Los Angeles, are undocumented immigrants,” Beck said. “I need their cooperation. I need them to work with their local police stations. I need them to be witnesses to violent crime. I need them to be part of the fabric of Los Angeles if we are to
keep this city safe.”

“For a local law enforcement agency to take on the role of immigration enforcement tears that fabric apart,” he said.

Beck said the department will keep people in custody no longer than the typical 48 to 72 hours, and will not honor requests by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials to detain people longer than that.

Beck said the department takes the position that these types of “ICE detainers have been shown to be illegal.”

The police department, however, will not hide the fact that an undocumented immigrant has been taken into custody, according to Beck.

Beck said the “system by which we run folks nationally for warrants notifies ICE automatically,” so they will still release people to immigration enforcement officials as long as they are in their custody, Beck said.

“If they (ICE officials) call, if they make contact, then we give them the release dates, but we don’t hold people past those release dates,” he said. “And if they bail out, they bail out.”

He said that while it would be a “big deal” if the department’s stance were to result in the city losing out on federal dollars, it will not influence whether he does “the right thing.”

“It’s a matter of principle,” he said. “This is a matter of what … is the core value of the Los Angeles Police Department, which I believe far transcends any other motivation.”

Supreme Court Deadlocks on DAPA and Extended DACA

June 23, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Local immigration-rights activists expressed disappointment today in the U.S. Supreme Court’s inability to reach a decision on President Barack Obama’s effort to expand deportation protection to millions of parents of U.S.-born children, but they vowed to continue fighting for change in immigration policy.

“Today’s Supreme Court decision blocking President Obama’s executive action on immigration means that the estimated 1 million undocumented immigrants in Los Angeles County, one in every 10 Los Angeles residents, will be denied the ability to work with the safety of legal authorization and protection from deportation”, said Rusty Hicks, executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.

“We in the Los Angeles labor movement will not let this legal setback deter our work on the ground”, Hicks said. “We stand in support of all workers exercising their rights on the job and in the community. We will continue to support immigrants, including undocumented immigrants, in seeking a better wage, better workplace conditions and protection from wage theft that is running rampant throughout our country”.

Immigrants and activists said to be disappointed for SCOTUS decision on DACA and DAPA. (CHIRLA)

Immigrants and activists said to be disappointed for SCOTUS decision on DACA and DAPA. (CHIRLA)

Obama’s executive action, announced two years ago, would have allowed immigrants who are the parents of U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents to request relief from deportation and authorization to work for three years. To qualify, they must have been in the country for more than five years, pass a criminal background check, pay fees and show that their child was born prior to the issuance of the executive order.

Once qualified, they would have also had to pay taxes.

The order also would have expanded the existing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects immigrants who were brought into the country illegally as children, by removing the upper age limit of 30. The DACA program would have been amended to offer three years of protection from deportation, up from the previous two years.

The actions were challenged in court by officials in several states, and a lower court judge issued an order blocking the actions, leading to the appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. The nation’s highest court — still short one member—split today 4-4, meaning the lower court ruling remains in effect.

“Justice turned its back to millions today and the politics of obstruction and xenophobia have triumphed instead,” said Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles.

“A dark sunset approaches our land when justice, compassion and respect for history are ignored by a divided court.”

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said he was disappointed in the court’s inability to reach a decision, saying it will create uncertainty for immigrant families that could be split up by deportation.

“That’s not what America stands for,” he said. “No matter what happens in Washington, the city of Los Angeles remains committed to supporting all families.”

Supreme Court Justices Should Uphold President’s Actions on Immigration

April 21, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Will the United States Supreme Court decide President Obama was within his right to grant deferred deportation to some persons in the country illegally because the Congress has been unable take action to reform the nations immigration programs?

Or will the Court copy the Congress and be unable to reach a majority decision to resolve the immigration case before them?

At issue before the Court is whether President Obama acted within his Constitutional authority when granting temporary relief from deportation to millions of immigrants within the country without legal authorization, and whether Texas and 25 other states will be harmed by those actions.

Under the president’s executive actions, deportation relief would not be granted to every person in the country illegally, but rather to a select group of non-criminal immigrants who have set down roots in the country, pay taxes, attend school, and are considered a low-priority for deportation by Homeland Security.

The fact is, by only allocating enough funds to deport approximately 400,000 of the estimated 11 million immigrants in the country without authorization, Congress has made a de facto decision to allow millions of the immigrants to remain here.

The claim by Texas and the other states that they will be harmed by the president’s actions makes no sense to us. The federal government did not mandate that they pass a law granting driver’s licenses to non-citizens legally present in the country. They did it on their own.

The notion that Obama’s executive actions will cause the state financial harm is at best speculative.

On what grounds the justices could find that a state suffered harm by having licensed people on the road, or non-citizen workers paying state, local and federal taxes, isn’t clear to us.

We have said before and say again, we believe President Obama was well within his legal prerogative when he granted temporary relief from deportations to people brought to this country as children through no choice of their own, and to the parents of children born in the U.S., and permanent residents.

We don’t believe the President’s actions are changing, throwing out, or usurping the immigration laws of this country, as unworkable as they may be.

What the President is in fact doing is stepping in to upend a stalemate no one in this country is very happy about.

Not even a Republican led Congress should be able to wait for the other side to drop on immigration.

Now let’s hope the Supreme Court justices do what’s right and let the president’s executive actions stand.


Click here for the complete transcript of the oral arguments made before the United States Supreme Court.

Justices Appear Divided On Immigration Case

April 21, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

The atmosphere was celebratory, as if they had already won.

In reality, victory, defeat or a draw in a case that could determine the future of millions of immigrants in the country illegally is likely still months away.

On Monday morning — in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington D.C. and in dozens of cities across the country — thousands of immigrants and their supporters rallied in support of President Obama’s executive actions giving four million undocumented immigrants temporary relief from deportation. The rallies took place as the high court’s eight justices listened to oral arguments in United States v. Texas, a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the president’s authority to bring the actions.

Questions raised by the eight justices seem to indicate they are deeply divided 4-4, with the four conservative justices leaning toward upholding the lower court’s ruling.

Lea este artículo en Español: Jueces Parecen Estar Divididos En Caso de Inmigración

Defending the president’s actions, petitioners questioned whether Texas and the other states have standing to bring the lawsuit.

In May 2015, a Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals panel in New Orleans upheld an injunction issued by a U.S. District judge in Texas in a lawsuit filed by Texas and 25 other Republican leaning states seeking to halt Obama’s executive actions on immigration.

The states argued that Obama overstepped his legal authority when he took the executive actions, insisting he does not have the ability to unilaterally set immigration policy.

The legal wrangling has suspended implementation of a program that would extend work permits and protection against deportation to parents of U.S.-born children and expand the existing program for immigrants who arrived illegally as children. The programs – often referred to by their acronyms, DAPA and DACA – would affect an estimated half-million Angelenos.

The three-justice panel ruled that the states had sufficient legal ground to bring suit and that the administration failed to show it would be harmed by further delays.

Congressman Xavier Becerra (D-34), whose district includes parts of East and Northeast Los Angeles, was in the Court for oral arguments and told EGP following the proceedings that the justices were attentive to both sides presenting arguments.

They asked very important questions, such as “how do you define lawful presence?” and “how do you treat the issue of removal [of undocumented immigrants]?” if it was to happen, he said.

For Becerra, the threshold is whether Texas even has the right to bring the case to court,  “because [they] have to prove that the state will be harmed” by the measures.

Thousands of people gathered on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court to support DACA and DAPA. (Photo courtesy of office of Congressman Xavier Becerra)

Thousands of people gathered on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court to support DACA and DAPA. (Photo courtesy of office of Congressman Xavier Becerra)

In 2015, Texas argued that the state would suffer financial harm due to a Texas policy that allows the state to issue driver’s licenses to noncitizens lawfully living in the state.

Undocumented youth who qualified for DACA in 2012 were not initially allowed to apply for a Texas driver’s license, but that changed a year later when the Obama Administration confirmed that DACA recipients are authorized to be in the United States and therefore considered to be “lawfully present” under federal immigration laws.

During oral arguments Monday, U.S. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli argued that under current Texas law, “They will give a driver’s license now to any category of person who has a document from the Federal government, not only saying you’re lawfully present, but that you’re officially – we’re officially tolerating your presence.”

“There are vast numbers of people under existing Texas law that are eligible for a license even though they are not lawfully present,” Verrelli said during the 90-minute session. He argued that Texas could change its law to deny driver’s licenses to immigrants.

“You would sue them instantly,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts responded. It’s “a real catch-22,” he said, referring to the possibility of the federal government suing Texas over its unequal treatment of immigrants deemed lawfully present in the country.

Speaking in defense of the president’s actions, MALDEF President and General Counsel Thomas A. Saenz presented testimonials from three unauthorized immigrant mothers –identified as Jane Does – who would benefit from DAPA, defended the executive actions.

“The justices seemed closely engaged throughout the entire argument,” Saenz said during a telephone news conference following oral arguments. It was necessary to bring the “human faces” of those who are being put at risk, he added.

“Without their participation, the only parties would be political, so it was important to have the perspective of those who are waiting,” he told reporters.

The death of Justice Antonin Scalia earlier this year has left the court divided 4-4 along partisan lines. If the conservative/liberal split holds, a 4-4 decision would allow the lower court’s decision to stand.

“There would be consideration of what could be done, in court or otherwise, to limit the scope of the nationwide injunction barring implementation of the guidance everywhere” in response, Saenz explained.

Plaintiffs in the case also claim that the immigration orders by President Obama represent a drastic change in the country’s policies without the authorization of Congress.

It’s an argument backed by California Congressman Darrell Issa (R-49) who represents the coastal areas of San Diego and Orange counties.

“The Constitution couldn’t be any clearer. It’s Congress’s job to write the laws and it’s the President’s job to see that they are faithfully executed,” said Issa in a statement Monday.

Justice Anthony Kennedy seemed to agree. “It’s as if the president is setting the policy and the Congress is executing it. That’s just upside down,” said Kennedy, typically the court’s swing vote.

“We have basically 10 million, nine hundred thousand people that cannot be deported because there’s not enough resources,” said Justice Sonia Sotomayor after clarifying that Congress had only allocated funds to deport about 400,000 people in the country illegally each year. “So they are here whether we want them or not.”

A coalition of 15 states, including California, plus the District of Columbia and 118 cities and counties, however, have demonstrated support for the president’s actions.

In the friends-of-the-courts briefs, supporters of the president’s executive actions argue that his directives would not harm the 26 states seeking to overturn them but instead would be of substantial benefits not only to undocumented immigrants and their families, but to government coffers as well.

The brief, which was co-drafted by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, City Attorney Mike Feuer and their New York City counterparts, also points to the potential “economic harm” of not allowing taxpaying immigrants to work and stay in the country.

Obama’s executive policies are expected to inject as much as $800 million in “economic benefits” to state and local governments, according to the brief.

Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-40) who represents East L.A. and parts of Southeast and South L.A. said in a statement that President Obama’s executive actions to expand DACA and implement DAPA are not only legal, but also humane.

“If these actions take effect, more qualified immigrants will be able to come out of the shadows and contribute to our nation. More families will be able to live in peace, free from fears of being torn apart,” she said. “I am confident the Supreme Court will affirm that President Obama has every right to take these executive actions.”

Saenz said he is very optimistic. “I saw a court that was very much for justice.”

A final ruling is expected in June.

Information from City News Service used in this report.

Update  3:45 p.m. April 22, 2016: An earlier version of this story misspelled the names of Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard and  Darrell Issa.



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