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.

 

—-

Twitter @jackiereporter

jgarcia@egpnews.com

galvarez@egpnews.com

Advocates Gather to Support Obama’s Immigration Orders

April 18, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

On the day the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on the issue, Southland immigration advocates rallied Monday in support of President Barack Obama’s executive orders extending deportation protection to an estimated 4 million people.

Dozens of activists gathered in front of the federal building in downtown Los Angeles, waving signs and chanting slogans such as “We are America.”

“We are waiting on this decision,” Polo Morales of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles told the crowd.”

Morales said the immigration issue should be on the minds of politicians, and their position on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which is already in place to protect children who were brought to the country by their parents from deportation, will factor heavily among immigrant voters.

A pro-immigrant group gathered Monday morning to support DACA and DAPA (Courtesy of Catherine Lyons)

A pro-immigrant group gathered Monday morning to support DACA and DAPA (Courtesy of Catherine Lyons)

“This is what we’re talking about—the folks that are here that are benefiting from this program have citizen children that are eligible to vote,” he said. “So if you’re talking about getting rid of this program you’re also talking about the future of the next election. So how you talk about this program and how you support immigrants is going to (determine) whether you take that seat in the White House or not.”

In May 2015, a Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals panel in New Orleans upheld an injunction issued in February by U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen of Texas. That injunction was issued in response to lawsuits filed by 26 states seeking to halt Obama’s executive actions on immigration.

Those 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.

Los Angeles and nearly 120 other cities and counties across the country signed on to legal pleadings in support of Obama’s programs.

“Without the guidance, millions of families in our cities and counties face the threat of deportation, destabilizing our communities and jeopardizing the welfare of families and children,” according to the brief, which was co-drafted by Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer and New York City counterparts.

The brief 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.

Local elected officials raised their voices in support of Obama’s actions.

“The Supreme Court decision that will stem from today’s oral arguments will affect millions of aspiring Americans who have already put down roots in our communities and are contributing to our economy,” said Rep. Judy Chu, D-Pasadena. “Tearing those families apart would be costly and contrary to our nation’s values. That is why members of Congress, governors, mayors and legal scholars from across the country have spoken out in support of these actions.”

Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Los Angeles, called Obama’s actions local and humane.

“If these actions take effect, more qualified immigrants will be able to come out of the shadows and contribute to our nation,” she said. “More families will be able to live in peace, free from fears of being torn apart.”

The executive actions have been met with opposition from Republicans, who insist that Congress is responsible for crafting immigration laws.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich said earlier this year the Supreme Court should find the president “clearly lacks statutory authority to change the law without Congressional action.”

While Antonovich said he supports legal immigration as “vital to our nation’s economy and culture,” he added that “illegal immigration costs county taxpayers nearly $2 billion dollars a year and siphons resources away from services for legal immigrants and county residents.”

Supreme Court to Take Up Immigration Case

January 21, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

East Los Angeles resident and immigration rights activist Isabel Medina woke up Tuesday to a text message saying the Supreme Court would review President Obama’s executive action on immigration.
“I was so excited, I woke up my kids and told them about the good news,” Medina told EGP in Spanish. “I called my husband at work and we celebrated one more step forward to legalization.”

Her two U.S. born children—ages seven and nine—didn’t quite comprehend the importance of the decision, she said. “But they were happy and said, ‘Mom, now you can go visit grandma [in Mexico]’” recalled Medina with tears on her eyes.

Lea este artículo en Español: Tribunal Supremo toma el Caso de Inmigración 

The Supreme Court justices’ decision to review the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans’ ruling in Texas v. United States gives hope to Medina and as many as five million immigrants in the country illegally who could get temporary relief from deportation under the president’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) and expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DAPA) programs.

Announced by Obama in November 2014, DACA and DAPA would allow undocumented parents of U.S. born children and lawful permanent residents, and undocumented immigrants who arrived to the country as children and were over the age of 31 in 2012, to obtain protection against deportation and to receive a work permit and social security number.

On February 16, 2015—two days before expanded DACA would take effect— 26 predominately Republican states led by Texas filed a lawsuit to block the programs, claiming that Obama’s executive orders enacting the programs exceeded his authority under the US Constitution.

A Texas judge and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals panel in New Orleans agreed, stopping the programs from going into effect.

The Obama Administration and 15 states – including California -appealed the Fifth Circuit’s ruling to the Supreme Court.

Isabel Medina (center) and other activists celebrate the decision from the Supreme Court to hear the cases of DACA and DAPA. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

Isabel Medina (center) and other activists celebrate the decision from the Supreme Court to hear the cases of DACA and DAPA. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

“We know it’s legal, we know it’s common sense. We know it’s just a lawful exercise of executive discretion that has been legally used by presidents in both parties; [Dwight D.] Eisenhower, [Ronald] Reagan, [George W.] Bush, [Bill] Clinton and of course Obama,” said Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights in Los Angeles (CHIRLA) during a press conference responding to the announcement Tuesday morning.

“[Immigrants] are not hiding, they work hard every single day to support their families and to support this country’s economy…we need to stop deporting men, women and children who work hard,” added Maria Elena Durazo, general vice president for immigration, civil rights and diversity with UNITE HERE.

Justices will likely hear arguments in April; a final decision is expected in June.

In California, about 1.5 million could benefit from DACA and DAPA with about half a million in Los Angeles County, according to Salas.

If the Supreme Courts rules in favor of the Administration, unauthorized immigrants eligible under DACA or DAPA could be faced with a short timeframe for applying for the programs before Obama leaves office and if a Republican replaces him as president January 2017.

Immigration rights activists have been urging people who could qualify for the three-year reprieve from deportation and the right to work legally to gather the documents they will need to apply if the Supreme Courts rules in their favor.

Congresswoman Judy Chu (CA-27), who said she was among those who first urged the president to issue the executive orders, said via a teleconference call Tuesday that the fight continues because “it is the right thing” to do.

“We know we are in the right legally, morally and we stand behind the president’s actions,” she said.
Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra (CA-34) said in a statement that the president acted “well within his authority” in proposing commonsense immigration measures.

“For Americans harmed—or simply frustrated—by our broken immigration system, this could be a sign of good news to come,” he said. “I am confident that the Supreme Court will rely on the Constitution and precedent to affirm his actions.”

Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis supported the president’s efforts by advocating for the formation of a county DACA/DAPA Task Force to implement the president’s orders and to allocate more local resources to assist youth who qualify for DACA.

“Last November, the County Board of Supervisors signed onto an amicus brief urging that the U.S. Supreme Court review the Fifth Circuit’s decision,” she said. “Now is the time to embrace our immigrants because they are vital contributors to our society.”

Medina, visibly joyful during CHIRLA’s press conference, told EGP she will fight relentlessly to be heard and to end her 19 years living in the shadows.

“My children worry about my situation,” Medina said. “At their young age they know what immigration is about and they fear I may not be home one day.”

—-

Twitter @jackiereporter

jgarcia@egpnews.com

Supreme Curt Decides to Review Obama’s Executive Orders on Immigration

January 19, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Southland immigration advocates and elected officials today hailed the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to review a legal challenge that has stalled President Barack Obama’s executive orders extending deportation protection to an estimated 4 million people.

“Immigrants have always been vital to our nation’s spirit of innovation, ingenuity and inclusiveness,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said. “Today’s decision by the Supreme Court to review Texas v. United States brings us another step closer to more fully integrating those residents into American life. I urge the justices to reach a decision that preserves family bonds across our country and speaks to the best of who we are as Americans.”

Rep. Judy Chu, D-Pasadena, said she was among those who urged Obama to issue the executive orders in the first place, and she is looking forward to the review by the nation’s highest court.

“Allowing these aspiring Americans to continue to work and contribute without fear of deportation or being separated from their families is the right thing to do morally, economically and legally,” Chu said.

“I am confident that the Supreme court will uphold President Obama’s programs as lawful exercises of executive discretion.”

In May 2015, a Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals panel in New Orleans upheld an injunction issued in February by U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen of Texas. That injunction was issued in response to lawsuits filed by 26 states seeking to halt Obama’s executive actions on immigration.

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 an 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.

Los Angeles and more than 80 other cities and counties across the country signed on to legal pleadings asking the Supreme Court to review the case.

“The DACA/DAPA programs have the potential to change the circumstances for many undocumented individuals without legal status in the United States,” Los Angeles City Councilman Gil Cedillo said. “In the absence of comprehensive immigration reform, we must take incremental steps to move people out of the shadows.”

California Attorney General Kamala Harris also hailed the decision, calling it “a great day for California and the entire nation.”

“DAPA and expanded DACA, which were a lawful exercise of the president’s authority, will bring law-abiding immigrant families out of the shadows, boost our economy and make communities safer,” Harris said.

Archbishop Jose Gomez, leader of the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles said that speaking as a pastor, the fear of deportation makes life intolerable for millions of families.

The executive actions at issue in this case are temporary and they are no substitute for the comprehensive immigration reform our country needs,” Gomez said. “But these actions would be a measure of mercy, providing peace of mind to nearly 9 million people, including 4.5 million children.”

Federal Court Blocks Obama Action on Immigration

May 28, 2015 by · 5 Comments 

Southland immigration advocates reacted defiantly Tuesday to a federal appeals court ruling blocking the Obama administration’s plans to extend deportation protection to an estimated 4 million people, while others applauded the decision.

The ruling by a Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals panel in New Orleans upholds an injunction issued in February by U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen of Texas. That injunction was issued in response to lawsuits filed by 26 states seeking to halt President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration.

“We disagree with the court’s myopic ruling and lament the confusion, anger and disappointment it will stir amongst millions of families who have spent much of their lives subjugated by unjust immigration laws,” said Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles.

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 an 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, according to the New York Times.

“Absent the passage of comprehensive immigration reform, our communities will continue to suffer from many of the devastating effects of deportation and family separation,” said Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, who on Tuesday said she is “disappointed” by the Fifth Circuit’s ruling, “which continues to block President Obama’s legal authority for expansion of DACA and implementation of DAPA.”

In the meantime, both the city and county of Los Angeles have begun to prepare for the programs’ roll-out.

The Board of Supervisors — led by Supervisor Hilda Solis but opposed by Supervisors Mike Antonovich and Don Knabe — filed a “friend of the court” brief in the case calling for the injunction to be lifted. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and his New York City counterpart, Bill de Blasio, led a coalition of 73 cities and counties in filing a similar brief.

“Unfortunately, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling means that millions of families will not be able to apply for permits to stay, work legally in this country and become full contributing members of our society,” Solis said. “We hope that the administration will find the most expeditious way to continue fighting this legal challenge to bring a final resolution and relief to these families.

“In the meantime, Los Angeles County will continue to get ready to help over half a million of our residents to apply for this programs when the time comes. And we believe it will,” Attorney General Kamala Harris, who is campaigning for a U.S. Senate seat, said she was disappointed by the appeals court’s ruling.

“President Obama proposed common-sense actions to help address our broken immigration system and provide a path out of the shadows for over one million hard-working undocumented Californians eligible for deferred action,” Harris said.

Antonovich “applauded the court’s decision,” according to his spokesman Tony Bell.

The executive actions amount to “an overreach by the administration,” Bell said, adding that Antonovich hoped the president would “abandon his unilateral action and work with Congress on real immigration reform.”

LA County Board Votes to Remove ICE Agents in Jails

May 18, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Supervisors Hilda Solis and Mark Ridley-Thomas recommended that the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department consult with community organizations and re-evaluate its working relationship with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement over the next 90 days.

“I see this as an opportunity to move forward because we have a new sheriff. We have a new board,” Solis said.

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl also voted her support for terminating the 2014 agreement, while Supervisors Michael Antonovich and Don Knabe cast the dissenting votes.

As the existing agreement – dubbed Secure Communities and often referred to in shorthand as 287(g) – is terminated, the board asked McDonnell to “continue cooperating with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in implementing the president’s Priority Enforcement Program.”

The second vote was 4-1, with Kuehl dissenting. She and many community activists said they see little difference between the two programs.

“It’s a distinction without a difference,” Kuehl said, with ICE agents waiting outside the jail for a “warm handoff” instead of working inside the jails.

“It is a strange day when the county Board of Supervisors takes a step forward and three steps back on immigration,” said Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles. “With today’s votes, the BOS has closed the door shut on a disgraced deportation dragnet, but left every window open by allowing the PEP program to replace (it).”

Others, including civil rights advocate Dolores Huerta, disagreed.

Supervisor Hilda Solis (center) is joined by civil and immigration rights activist Dolores Huerta, left and Rev. Richard Estrada. (Office of Supervisor Hilda Solis)

Supervisor Hilda Solis (center) is joined by civil and immigration rights activist Dolores Huerta, left and Rev. Richard Estrada. (Office of Supervisor Hilda Solis)

“Ending this program is a huge, major step in treating our immigrants the right way,” Huerta told the board.

Meanwhile, McDonnell, who did not attend Tuesday’s hearing, has not explicitly agreed to remove ICE agents from the inmate processing center at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility, though Solis and the county’s lead attorney said they believed he would do so.

In a statement Monday, McDonnell pledged to balance public safety with building community trust.

“Our department must work closely and cooperatively with federal authorities to identify and assist with the lawful investigation and prosecution of undocumented persons who pose a danger to our community,” the sheriff said. “We must also bear in mind at all times the importance of preserving community relationships as well as the due process rights of those in our custody.”

Federal officials announced back in November that Secure Communities would be discontinued in favor of PEP.

In a memo to the then-ICE Acting Director Thomas Winkowski, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said Secure Communities “is widely misunderstood and is embroiled in litigation; its very name has become a symbol for general hostility toward the enforcement of our immigration laws.”

In their motion, Solis and Ridley-Thomas said the county should “trust, but verify,” with regard to PEP.

The Priority Enforcement Program still uses fingerprint data from local arrests to check immigration status, though at booking rather than release.

Information on more inmates is shared with ICE under the PEP program, sheriff’s Chief Eric Parra told the board.

However, only undocumented immigrants who pose “a demonstrable risk to national security” or who have been convicted of, not just arrested for, certain crimes are to be targeted for deportation under the new rules.

The list does not include crimes related solely to illegal immigration. However, it does include all felonies, aggravated felonies, convictions of three or more misdemeanors or of a single “significant misdemeanor,” including domestic violence, sexual abuse, burglary, unlawful possession of a firearm, drug distribution, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs or any conviction carrying a sentence of at least 90 days.

Under the California TRUST Act, which took effect last year in an effort to protect inmates’ right to due process, inmates are not to be detained beyond the end of their scheduled release date. Instead, ICE is notified in advance of an inmates’ pending release.

Community activists said collaboration with ICE undermines community trust and separates families.

Family members of those victimized and killed by undocumented immigrants made emotional pleas for the enforcement of 287(g), chiding the board for not prioritizing citizens over those in the country illegally.

The Sheriff’s Department has leeway to act on his own without board approval.

“The sheriff has complete control over the jails and everybody in them,” County Counsel Mark Saladino told the board.

Legislators Introduce Bills to Protect Immigrants

April 9, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

A group of California legislatures presented a 10-bill package Tuesday to reinforce the protection of undocumented immigrants and fight the “paralyzing politics” of Congress that has stalled the approval of immigration reform.

“In California we are around 40 million residents, the majority who have origins in Mexico, Central America and Asia. That is why today we are presenting a packet of 10 bills to protect undocumented immigrants,” Sen. Pro Tem Kevin de León told EFE Tuesday.

“With these proposed bills we want to make it clear throughout the country that in California we are inclusive and that with arms wide open we accept all immigrants who come to work to provide a better life for their families,” he said during a phone interview from Sacramento.

The press conference announcing the “Immigrants Shape California” legislative package was streamed live on YouTube and jointly chaired by Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins. Authors from both the senate and assembly outlined key details of their bills.

The senate leader is the author of Senate Bill 674, the Immigrant Victims of Crime Equity Act. “With this bill, the police or sheriff will have to provide a copy of the criminal complaints to undocumented [immigrant] applying for a U-Visa” to stay in the country, the senator explained. In “some cities the police refuse to provide the copy to undocumented individuals [who are he victims of crime] and there is no law to require them.”

A copy of the police report documenting domestic violence, aggravated assaults, and other crimes is required to apply for the federal Victims of Crime Visa (U-Visa).

The package of bills includes “Health Care for All,” a bill by Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), that would give low-income undocumented immigrants access to Medi-Cal and higher income immigrants the ability to purchase unsubsidized health insurance from the state health care exchange, Covered California. It also contains various civil rights protections including for migrant children, and protections against “unscrupulous” employers. It also establishes the California Office of New Americans, which will focus on integrating immigrants into society.

“These laws that we are proposing in California could pass in The House, but they need the desire” to get it done, said De León, referring to immigration reform being stalled in Washington D.C.

The senator explained that is the reason “the bills were introduced in California with the hope that other states follow the lead.”

Joseph Villela, director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) told EFE that “the paralyzed politics of legislators in Washington D.C. has made legislators move forward with these bills in California.”

He explained that since November a dozen organizations have united with senators and assemblymembers in California to present this bill package.

Villela divided the packaged of 10 bills into two categories: liberty and justice. “The package of liberty is for those undocumented immigrants to feel welcomed in California and to not fear going out into the streets,” he said.

EGP staff writers contributed to this report.

County to Create Task Force to Prep for Immigration Changes

February 26, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to create a task force to plan for implementation of President Barack Obama’s immigration orders, despite a court order halting the programs.

If the two executive orders clear legal hurdles, they could defer deportation for nearly 500,000 Los Angeles-area residents

Supervisors Hilda Solis and Sheila Kuehl recommended the task force, which will include employees from departments that manage voting, consumer fraud, property taxes, hospitals, community and senior services, parks and libraries. Supervisor Michael Antonovich dissented in the 4-1 vote, saying the effort was premature.

“People have asked me, `Why now?”’ Solis said. “My response is, ‘Why not now?’ We need to prepare our community.”

While talking about the economic benefits of the immigration changes, Solis also raised concerns about fraud perpetrated by those looking to take advantage of immigrants when the programs roll out.

Research by UCLA’s North American Integration and Development Center estimate that offering work permits to roughly 466,000 immigrants in Los Angeles County could generate another $1.1 billion in tax revenues and 38,500 jobs.

“We would essentially legalize $25 billion … it would come out of the shadows and become part of the formal economy,” UCLA Associate Professor Raul Hinojosa-Ojeda told the board.

Hinojosa-Ojeda said immigration is “by no means solely a Mexican issue,” noting that “one out of every seven Asians in this country is undocumented.”

The two programs — Expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parental Accountability and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) — would allow an estimated 3.7 million parents of U.S.-born and resident children and another roughly 300,000 immigrants who arrived illegally as children to apply for work permits and temporary protection from deportation. Those totals are based on estimates from the Migration Policy Institute.

More than 600,000 people have already qualified under the 2012 DACA program, which offers protections to young people who were illegally brought to the U.S. as children. That total represents about half of those eligible for the program.

The age cap under that program would be eliminated under the latest executive action.

The new programs were set to start accepting applications Feb. 18, but a federal district court judge in Texas issued an injunction halting the program, ruling in favor of 20-plus states, led by Texas, that challenged the executive actions.

Antonovich said he believes “immigration is vital to this country,” but the county should wait for the legal battle to play out.

Solis reminded her colleagues about the “fierce fight” around the original DACA order, while Kuehl said she was “confident” that the courts would ultimately approve the President’s action.

“We will not wait to prepare,” Kuehl said.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who joined Solis and Kuehl at a morning news conference to highlight his commitment to immigration, said the task force was “our opportunity to telegraph to the nation that we get it … Let’s accord everyone who we can a sense of dignity and respect.”

Los Angeles County Federation of Labor leader Rusty Hicks offered his union’s support.

“There is much about life that we don’t control. we don’t control the color of our skin, where we are born or who our parents are,” Hicks said, urging the supervisors to “keep (the) promise” of immigration.

Mayor Eric Garcetti’s chief of immigrant affairs called Los Angeles “the epicenter for the implementation.” Garcetti, who has joined the mayors of several other cities in support of DACA and DAPA, had already reached out to county departments to coordinate, Solis said.

“Enrollment will result in economic gains and safer communities,” Garcetti chief Linda Lopez told the board.

In addition to objections raised in legal challenges to Obama’s action, those opposed to the task force raised concerns about immigrants competing for jobs and other resources.

“The county of Los Angeles has the highest poverty rate of any county in the state,” resident Kevin Lynn said. “If the optimistic projections that were voiced earlier … were anything but delusion, wouldn’t this county be experiencing less  poverty and more prosperity?”

Those protected under the program would not be eligible for federal public benefits such as financial aid, food stamps or housing subsidies. Whether they would be eligible for state aid would be decided on a state-by-state basis.

Antonovich said he expected that the immigration changes would ultimately end up costing the county money.

“Counties, cities and states have to pick up the tab,” Antonovich said.

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