The percentage of adults in Los Angeles County without health insurance has declined to under one million, but disparities persist among low-income Latinos, according to a survey released Tuesday by the county Department of Public Health.
The decline – from 1.7 million adults in 2011 to 750,000 adults in 2015 – was seen in both men and women, all racial and ethnic groups, all age groups, and all geographic areas of the county.
A slight decline was also seen among children less than 18 years old, from 5 percent in 2011 to 3.4 percent in 2015, continuing a steady decline since 2002, when 10.1 percent of the county’s children lacked health insurance, the report shows.
“These statistics represent great news for the county,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of the county public health agency. “We know that having health insurance coverage is an essential step in ensuring people get the medical care they need, including access to preventive services.”
Despite the favorable trends, large disparities in the uninsured persist in the county. The percentage of adults who were uninsured in 2015 was more than three times higher in small communities in the southern and eastern parts of the county, according to the survey.
The percentage of uninsured was also higher among Latino adults at 17.3 percent than among Asians at 7.3 percent, whites at 6.4 percent and African-American adults at 6.1 percent.
Among Latinos, the percentage of uninsured was higher among those living below the federal poverty line than among those living at or above the poverty level.
The decline in uninsured in the county is consistent with trends reported in California and nationally, and occurred during the time when the Affordable Care Act was being implemented.
In California, the implementation included expansion of Medi-Cal to cover previously ineligible adults with incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty level, and private insurance options through Covered California for individuals and families with higher incomes.
The “Recent Trends in Health Insurance Coverage” report is available online at publichealth.lacounty.gov/ha.
The Board of Supervisors delayed a vote Tuesday on $1 million in legal support for residents facing deportation after advocates protested a provision excluding individuals convicted of violent crimes.
The board also voted Tuesday to explore its authority to limit federal immigration enforcement at schools, courthouses and hospitals, a move praised by immigration rights advocates.
Supervisors Hilda Solis and Sheila Kuehl recommended the potential push-back against immigration enforcement, saying the county has a fundamental interest in ensuring access to service for all residents.
Their motion highlighted the case of Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez, a 48-year-old father of four U.S. citizens who was detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents while driving two of his daughters to school.
ICE reported that Avelica-Gonzalez was ordered to be deported in 2014 because of multiple criminal convictions, including for DUI in 2009. ICE also said he was arrested about a half-mile from the school.
Immigration rights advocates praised the board’s willingness to resist what they characterized as aggressive federal immigration enforcement. However, eligibility requirements proposed for the LA Justice Fund by Solis and Supervisor Janice Hahn drew fire.
In addition to the bar on prior convictions, the supervisors’ motion proposed prioritizing certain groups when doling out legal aid, including individuals with family who are U.S. citizens, heads of households, veterans and victims of crime, among others.
A coalition of organizations seeking universal representation for those threatened with deportation rallied outside the Hall of Administration and waited hours to be heard by the board.
“The devil is in the details,” said Ricardo Mireles, executive director of Academia Avance, the school where ICE agents grabbed Avelica-Gonzalez. “This is an old issue of unequal representation.”
Mireles said excluding those with prior convictions failed to reflect decades of inequities in the criminal plea bargaining system.
Immigrants often “plead up” to more serious crimes based on legal advice that the crimes are “immigration-safe” and wouldn’t alone qualify someone for deportation, according to a letter to the board from the coalition.
That letter was signed by representatives of nearly 50 civil rights organizations, faith leaders, labor unions, legal aid organizations and community alliances — including the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, Los Angeles County Labor Federation, Public Counsel and the
National Day Laborer Organizing Network.
The coalition called for “due process for all,” arguing for a first-come, first-served approach to providing legal aid.
Niels Frenzen, director of USC’s Gould School of Law Immigration Clinic, supported the board’s efforts to set priorities, saying there wasn’t enough funding to help everyone.
“We’re operating in a world with finite resources,” Frenzen said.
If forced to set priorities, the county should first help those at most imminent risk of deportation, sitting in federal detention, said coalition spokeswoman Emi MacLean of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network.
MacLean accused the board of “playing into the Trump framework of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ immigrants” and warned that Los Angeles County might end up on the “wrong side of history.”
She estimated that it would cost $12 million to provide legal representation to everyone inside of Adelanto Detention Center, which houses most individuals detained by federal immigration agents in Los Angeles County.
The LA Justice Fund is aiming to raise $10 million. The board has indicated its intent to contribute $1 million and more than $6 million more has been pledged by other public and private entities, including $2 million by the city of Los Angeles.
The motion by Solis and Hahn was “referred back” to Solis’ office, the county’s version of a redo.
The board also voted 4-1 Tuesday to formally establish the Immigrant Protection and Advancement Task Force, with Barger voting no.
“Creating a task force and hiding illegal immigrants from federal enforcement only institutionalizes their illegal status and forces them further into the shadows,” Barger said. “These actions are reactionary and counterproductive in the effort to help individuals seek a path to citizenship or apply for legal status to be in the United States.
“Rather than moving toward becoming a sanctuary state and county in violation of federal law, both the state and the county should be leading the effort to initiate congressional action to enact comprehensive immigration reform.”
The motion calls on each supervisor to appoint one member. Those five appointees will be charged with identifying other representatives up to a total of 11 members.
The coalition represents a very diverse set of communities and one member called for the same inclusiveness on the task force.
“Black immigrants have been severely ignored in the conversation about immigration despite the consistent rise in unjust deportation in black immigrant communities,” said Addis Daniel of the African Communities Public Health Coalition.
“We hope that a task force that is inclusive … will help to address the needs of immigrants across the board rather than just those with the most visibility.”
The Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to review its options for helping mentally ill homeless individuals who refuse treatment, including the potential for legislative changes.
Supervisor Kathryn Barger said it was time to consider changes, as the county prepares to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to counter homelessness. She estimated that about 30 percent of individuals living on the street suffer from some kind of mental illness.
“There needs to be a higher standard of mental healthcare,” Barger said in her motion. “With a short 10-year window to address homelessness using Measure H funds, the county must review and revisit the application of California’s Lanterman-Petris-Short Act to ensure that we have requisite authority to provide care for those who are suffering from mental illness and are unwilling and/or incapable of accepting care.”
The 1972 Lanterman-Petris-Short Act was designed to safeguard rights of the mentally ill and end the indefinite, involuntary commitment of those suffering from mental illness.
Barger said the law limits options to help the homeless, both because the standards to commit someone to treatment are difficult to meet and because the typical time limit for mandated treatment is 72 hours. As a result, some mentally ill homeless end up “hospitalized in our jails,” she said.
Department of Mental Health Director Dr. Jonathan Sherin agreed that too many of the resources for the mentally ill exist in jails and other “punitive environments … not designed for people to flourish.”
However, Supervisor Sheila Kuehl raised civil rights concerns and skepticism about efforts to “help” those who don’t want it.
“Let us be honest about how we draw the line,” Kuehl told her colleagues.
She warned that the county could end up taking on the responsibility for defining who is severely impaired, a decision typically left to the courts.
When Kuehl asked Sherin how he would approach the review, he told her, “We need to exhaust all options that are available to us currently,” but added that he was interested in “new care models.”
Sherin said the reassessment would include a fresh look at Laura’s Law, a state law that allows courts to mandate outpatient treatment for severely mentally ill individuals.
Carolyn Kelly, chair of the county’s mental health commission, echoed Kuehl’s interest in allowing mentally ill individuals to maintain their autonomy.
“Nothing about us without us … is something we want to very much honor,” Kelly said.
Kelly asked that the District Attorney’s Office be looped into the conversation as soon as possible, telling the board that enforcement and application of regulations is more important than the language of any law.
Just how many people would be affected by changes in the law or its application was another subject of debate.
The nonprofit organization Step Up on Second houses hundreds of people with serious and persistent mental illness who have been without a home of their own for decades, said Step Up CEO Tod Lipka. He told the board that “just 2-3 percent” need a new approach, while Barger said a “significant segment” of the chronically homeless population would benefit.
A report back is expected in 45 days.
Los Angeles County is suing the state in an effort to quash a new law that places the task of re-drawing the county’s supervisorial districts in the hands of a 14-member citizens committee.
The county’s complaint, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Monday, seeks an order declaring that the law created by the passage of SB 958 last year is unconstitutional, along with a permanent injunction barring its implementation.
“The State of California has imposed an unfair, unworkable and unconstitutional new redistricting law exclusively on the County of Los Angeles,” the lawsuit alleges.
The state did so “with no rational basis or justification, and absent consultation with Los Angeles County voters, who now find themselves the subjects of an ill-conceived civic experiment that they have no power to fix or to repeal,” the suit says.
The county’s chief executive office issued a statement calling the bill unconstitutional because it singles out Los Angeles County and is counter to constitutional law requiring county offices to be nonpartisan.
Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, authored SB 958, which was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last October and applies only to L.A. County.
The new law creates a commission whose membership is based on political party registration, which the county says discriminates against independent voters, who make up 25 percent of those registered countywide.
“Instead of choosing the commissioners in a manner that is deliberative and nonpartisan, SB 958 tips the process, promoting partisanship, playing favorites between political parties and unaffiliated voters,” according to the lawsuit.
The 14-member Citizen Redistricting Committee is to be responsible for creating supervisorial district boundaries every 10 years, after each U.S. Census.
Based on registration numbers from October, the county estimates that 70 percent of the commissioners would be Democrats, 25 percent Republicans, and 5 percent would be from smaller parties. Voters who registered without a party preference— the fastest-growing segment of newly registered voters — will not be given equal consideration, according to the county CEO’s office.
The county staunchly defended the board’s current “rigorous public redistricting process,” noting that “the last apportionment, which was based on the 2010 Census, included extensive input from county voters and was never challenged in court.”
Latino civil rights advocates did threaten to sue in 2011. Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and then-supervisor Gloria Molina pushed the board to create a second majority-Latino district, a move that was the subject of heated debate.
Their motion was rejected on a 2-3 vote in September 2011, with three white male board members arguing that it would move nearly a third of the population into new districts and consolidate areas with little in the way of common interests.
Asked for his current view, Ridley-Thomas said: “The County of Los Angeles has a duty to protect the rights of its citizens, and that’s why this lawsuit was filed. One million voters — about 25 percent of the electorate in the county — will not have a voice or a say in redistricting just because their political affiliation is independent or they chose not to specify. That’s not right.”
Supporters of the law called it a good government proposal that would make board races more competitive and “help to maintain communities of interests, to ensure groups with similar socioeconomic interests are not negatively impacted by redistricting,” according to a legislative fact sheet issued by Lara’s office.
Lara said he finds it surprising that the Board of Supervisors “would go to court to oppose a law that recognizes Los Angeles’ diversity and promotes transparency in a county whose population is larger than that of 40 states.”
“If the citizens redistricting commission is good enough for the state Legislature and Congress, it should be good enough for the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors,” Lara added.
The law’s proponents say they worked to model it after Proposition 11, which created a citizens commission to set the boundaries for state Assembly and Senate districts.
Opponents note that the statewide commission has five Democratic members, five Republican members and four from neither party, unlike the political proportions mandated by SB 958.
While the board’s decisions to litigate are almost always the result of closed-door discussions, opposition to legislation the board doesn’t like — or support for bills they agree with — is often highlighted during public meetings. Those public sessions often end with a vote to send a letter to legislators or the governor signed by all five board members.
Solis did not immediately respond to a request for comment on her decision not to bring a motion before the full board.
Though the citizens commission would not be called to redraw boundaries until after the 2020 census, the county said the process of identifying and vetting members needed to begin promptly and asked the court to act quickly in response to its suit.
While Los Angeles is home to the nation’s largest homeless population, L.A. County has responded with a broad spectrum of programs to match.
The scope of the problem is large, but the agencies and organizations tasked with ending homelessness are making progress – progress that advocates say could be helped by greater public investment.
The March ballot initiative known as Measure H proposes a quarter-cent sales tax that would finance the medical, housing, and employment needs of a homeless population that includes large numbers of former foster youth, women, and people of color.
Voters have already shown a willingness to fund measures that help the people sleeping on the streets of Los Angeles. Measure H would complement a $1.2 billion bond measure that voters approved last year to build 10,000 housing units for the homeless.
If Measure H were to pass by the needed two-thirds vote, it would create an annual fund of $355 million to help a population that has swelled to nearly 47,000. The county would approve spending plans based on recommendations from those on the front lines of the fight against homelessness.
“We have a pervasive crisis of homelessness,” says Los Angeles County Homeless Initiative Director Phil Ansell, who helped create homeless prevention programs in his former role as chief deputy director of the county’s social services department. “This would help us deal comprehensively with the issue and address the needs of different homeless categories. This is a complex problem that requires government, business and nonprofits.”
The Home for Good coalition led by the United Way of Greater Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce has housed about 18,000 veterans and more than 16,000 of the chronically homeless since 2011. It is among the organizations that will advise the county if the tax is approved.
Chris Ko, Home for Good’s director, says that more resources for homelessness prevention are needed because of high housing costs in the county.
In Koreatown, for example, Ko says that more than 1,000 people are homeless, and many more are “on the brink of homelessness.” Homelessness extends into all ethnic communities in Los Angeles, and Ko says that housing insecurity rates of Asians and Pacific Islanders are twice as high as those for whites.
Gentrification is creating more housing insecurity in Latino communities, says Celina Alvarez, the executive director of Housing Works, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit.
“People are living in parks and under freeways with no hope,” she says. “Every human being has a right to a home and the right to live in communities where they are valued … We have criminalized their behavior and stigmatized and ostracized them.”
While the most visible homeless community is central to the Skid Row area, homeless teens and young adults – a growing segment of L.A.’s homeless population – are more dispersed, and thus can be “invisible” to agencies, according to Andrea Marchetti, the executive director of Jovenes Inc. Marchetti’s organization provides housing and employment counseling for youth and at-risk families in Los Angeles. The homeless youth population in L.A., which is somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 young people, includes many who were formerly in foster care, Marchetti says.
Women also represent an increasingly large segment of the homeless population, partly because of domestic violence, says Debra Suh, the executive director of the Center for the Pacific Asian Family, an organization that helps Asian and Pacific Islander (API) domestic violence and sexual assault survivors.
One third of the homeless population is female, she says, and there has been a 55 percent increase in homeless women in the past three years. “We are not addressing domestic violence,” she says.
“Women have to choose between violence at home and unsafe streets. They are between a rock and a hard place.”
Many immigrant women seek her organization’s help because they have no network of friends and relatives, and because her teams can communicate in many different API languages.
More “cultural competency” in homeless services is needed if more people from a variety of communities are to be engaged, says Va Lecia Adams Kellum, the executive director of the St. Joseph Center, an organization that annually provides housing, mental health, educational, and vocational services to about 6,500 people in South Los Angeles and the city’s Westside.
The size of the homeless population that is African American is extremely disproportionate, she says. African American Angelenos are 39 percent of the homeless population in a city that is only 9 percent black.
“Who we hire makes a difference in this work,” she says. “African Americans and Latinos should be among those hired. It’s called ‘cultural competence’ and we should demand it.”
Moreover, ending homeless isn’t rocket science, according to Libby Boyce, the director of access, referral, and engagement for L.A. County’s Housing for Health program.
“The solution is housing with services,” she says. ”We know how to solve this problem. We just need the resources to reach all the homeless in our communities … The vast majority on our streets are long-term homeless and many have mental health problems and substance abuse problems.”
Reba Stevens is a Los Angeles resident who was homeless for 21 years until she obtained medical help for her substance use disorder. She jokes that when she first heard about Measure H, she changed her name to Reba “Measure H” Stevens.
“Supportive services are the reason I’ve been continuously housed the past 17 years,” she says. “Measure H will provide the resources to address individual needs.”
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors’ vote Tuesday in support of programs that protect some immigrants from deportation drew hostility from supporters of President-elect Trump, opponents of illegal immigration and others who urged officials to focus instead on the homeless, veterans and unemployed Americans.
The board voted unanimously to support comprehensive federal immigration reform and work to protect Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, two federal policies for undocumented immigrants adopted during the Obama administration.
It also agreed to back a bipartisan bill dubbed the BRIDGE Act, the Bar Removal of Individuals who Dream and Grow our Economy Act, designed to provide a backstop should DACA be eliminated by the incoming administration.
The motion to add these policies to the county’s legislative agenda was co-authored by Supervisors Hilda Solis and Kathryn Barger.
“Even though there has been a myriad of proposed legislation pertaining to immigration, our immigration system remains broken,” the motion stated.
Barger has consistently argued for trying to solve the problem at the federal level.
The vote was condemned by more than a dozen speakers, some of whom declined to give their names. Prior to the meeting, a group of protesters stood outside the Hall of Administration next to a small SUV covered in flag decals, pro-Trump slogans and a photo of Hillary Clinton behind bars in black-and-white jail clothes, above the caption, “How to Make America Great Again.”
Some accused the board of treason and another called the county a banana republic.
“The supervisors should focus on American citizens — homeless, veterans, unemployed and disabled — not illegal aliens,” Rhue Guijant told the board. “The motion to shield illegal aliens in the country promotes and supports federal lawbreaking.”
Mark Masaoka, policy director of the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council, spoke in support of the board motion.
“Entire industries are dependent, whether we like it or not, on immigrant labor,” Masaoka said.
An opponent countered that “every one of them has stolen someone else’s job.”
A community activist waiting to speak on another issue said he couldn’t help but speak up.
“The level of hate and the vitriol that I’m hearing has to be challenged,” Hamid Khan said of the opponents depicting “the faces of the other, the savage native, the criminal black, the illegal Latino, the
manipulative Asian, the Muslim terrorist, these are the faces that are constantly paraded … in our culture, in our politics … rather than looking at the real thing.”
Solis said the county was committed to protecting immigrant residents.
“Los Angeles County will stand up and protect our immigrant residents against any changes to federal policy that seek to unfairly target or scapegoat them,” Solis said in a statement following the vote.
“Whether they unfairly target community members for deportation or threaten to cut funding that many of our county services rely upon, we are taking action to shield them from these potentially harmful changes.”
Los Angeles County health officials reminded residents Tuesday that it’s not too late to get a flu shot.
The virus is now widespread and has hit that point earlier than in past years, according to health officials.
“Influenza typically peaks in January and February and can linger well into the spring, so vaccination for anyone over 6 months of age is still highly recommended,” said Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, the county’s interim health officer.
“By getting vaccinated now, you can protect yourself at the time of year when you are most likely to be exposed to the flu virus,” he said.
Health officials urged everyone to frequently wash their hands and stay home when ill to reduce the spread of the flu.
Those at greater risk for complications include: pregnant women; children under 5 and adults 65 years old and older; people with weakened immune systems, diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, or conditions affecting the nervous system; individuals who are overweight or obese; healthcare personnel and staffers in nursing homes or long-term care
facilities; and child care workers. Children 6 months to 8 years old should get a second flu vaccine dose this season for better protection, according to county health officials.
Most insurance plans cover vaccines at no cost and many pharmacies offer flu vaccines.
The county offers free flu vaccines for residents without insurance or a regular doctor.
More information can be found at http://bit.ly/FluVaccineInfo or by calling the county information line at 211.
New America Media – In California, childcare for infants costs as much as tuition in the University of California (UC) system, according to new data from the Lucile Packard Foundation of Children’s Health.
In 2014, parents of infants in California spent an average of more than $13,300 on childcare. That year, UC tuition and fees were just over $13,200.
At the national level, all eyes are on college affordability. But the lack of affordable early childhood options has even more dire long-term consequences.
Achievement gaps start early. According to a report this year from the Economic Policy Institute, children from more affluent backgrounds tend to perform better than lower-income children in reading and math as early as kindergarten. And that gap then continues throughout the rest of the kids’ schooling.
“For most families, if you’re talking about full-time care for an infant or toddler, those costs certainly rival, if not exceed in many cases, higher education costs,” says Ted Lempert, the president of Children Now and a former California State Assemblyman. “Some kids have access to really caring, well-trained adults in very strong early childhood programs, and a lot of kids have nothing. And that’s putting those children at a huge disadvantage very early on.”
The costs are highest in the San Francisco Bay Area and the Los Angeles area. Los Angeles County has more babies (age 0 to 2) than any other county in the state – nearly 200,000 babies in all. In L.A., the average cost of infant care is more than $14,300; in Orange County, it’s more than $15,000.
Quality early care is out of reach for many
The affordability crisis is happening at the same time that there’s growing recognition of how important quality childcare is for a baby’s development.
“This was not a major topic 10 or 15 years ago,” says Lempert. “In the past, even in recent years, it’s been really only about the family economics – the idea that we have to get childcare so that the parents can work. That’s critical, but in addition to that, there’s so much more focus now as well on things like opportunity gaps and inequities – the idea that childcare is critical for the child in terms of an anti-poverty strategy. It’s both generations we’re supporting.”
In the United States, there’s long been a mindset that when a child is very small, they are the parent’s responsibility. While there are subsidized childcare and preschool slots for those families that meet the income eligibility requirements, funding still hasn’t been restored to pre-recession levels, and “even back then we weren’t meeting the need,” says Lempert. A family of three needs to make less than $42,216 per year to qualify for subsidized care.
In L.A. County, there are only slots in licensed care providers for one out of four children, according to the California Child Care Resource and Referral Network. This count does not take into account families who utilize non-licensed providers (like when a child is cared for by a family member or nanny) or part-time after-school programs, says Rowena Kamo, the network’s research director.
“Despite the lack of availability of slots, we are still seeing some facilities close,” Kamo says, noting that some licensed home childcare providers, which tend to be less expensive, have had to shut their doors due to factors like an aging care provider workforce, low reimbursement rates by the state, and a difficult business model.
Care providers struggle to stay afloat
It’s not just parents feeling the pinch. Even though childcare costs so much, the median wage for childcare workers in California is less than $12 an hour. And ironically, at this wage, a childcare worker who is herself a parent needs to spend over a third of her income to pay for center-based childcare for her own child.
Tonia McMillian has been a home-based childcare provider in Los Angeles for 23 years. She says that while she wants to support low-income parents who need subsidized care, it’s a “balancing act month after month.”
Despite this, she says, “I’m not going to turn my back on families that need the services I offer. You have low-income moms who can’t afford to pay their childcare, especially parents who work variable schedules with last minute call-ins, and they lean on me to be there for them.”
McMillian says the new attention on the crucial nature of the early years for later success has not trickled down to caregivers.
“[Childcare providers] play a major part in developing children’s minds, keeping this economy going, yet we are not being treated as if we are a vital part of the economy,” she says. “[The state] leans on us heavily to meet the needs of parents, but they are not doing their fair share to make sure we have training and wages.”
There’s also sexism at play. “Home-based childcare and center-based providers are a predominately female occupation, and predominately women of color,” she says. “This is a direct reflection of how people look at ‘women’s work,’ and that’s absolutely not fair. But it’s blatant.”
McMillian is co-chair of the Raising California Together Coalition, a program of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Along with other groups, the coalition successfully campaigned for $15 per hour minimum wage, which will be phased into L.A. County by 2020.
Still, not all caregivers will benefit from the wage hike.
“I’m extremely happy those center-based workers will receive that $15, but home-based providers won’t be seeing that,” McMillian says. Home-based providers are usually considered independent contractors, “even though we do the same work, just in different environments.”
These low wages, the demanding nature of the work, and the lack of a “career ladder to build upon” lead to high rates of turnover among care providers, especially those who work in home-based settings, she says.
And in a profession where expertise has a direct impact on the future educational success of the children cared for, these conditions are becoming increasingly unsustainable.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors appointed a new public health director Tuesday with more than 25 years of relevant experience, including as a senior leader of public health agencies in Boston and Massachusetts.
Barbara Ferrer was most recently the chief strategy officer for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and oversaw key program areas, including food, health and well-being.
Before that, Ferrer served as the executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission. During her tenure, Boston saw a decrease in the rates of childhood obesity, asthma in public housing and smoking, as well as a significant reduction in the infant mortality rate in black families.
At the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Ferrer worked as the director of health promotion and chronic disease prevention and of the division of maternal and child health.
Ferrer will assume responsibility for the Department of Public Health on Feb. 6 at a salary of $376,635. The department has a budget of more than $900 million and nearly 4,000 employees.
Immigrant rights advocates faced off with anti-immigrant groups Tuesday outside the county Hall of Administration, trying to shout each other down, before the Board of Supervisors voted to established an Office of Immigrant Affairs.
The ICE Out of LA coalition was on hand to urge the supervisors to move quickly to institute proposed protections for undocumented immigrants, including a legal defense fund for residents threatened with deportation.
Holding signs calling for “representation, not deportation” and chanting “no Trump; no KKK; no fascist U.S.A.!,” the pro-immigrant group voiced its support of the board’s efforts to protect residents from potential changes in federal policy.
“We can’t stay silent,” said coalition spokeswoman Edna Monroy.
In December, in response to a proposal by Supervisors Hilda Solis and Sheila Kuehl, the board directed its lawyers and staffers to analyze how changes in federal funding could impact county services provided to immigrants and investigate what the county can do to prevent federal immigration enforcement at courts, schools and hospitals.
Solis and Kuehl held a news conference this morning to reiterate their commitment to that work, including a proposal to protect the data and identities of immigrants and a potential Office of Immigrant Affairs.
But outside, Monroy and her allies were competing with an equally vocal group of anti-immigrant organizations.
Middle-aged white women wearing T-shirts with the slogan “A Stolen Life” and pictures of victims of crimes allegedly committed by undocumented immigrants were joined by a racially diverse group of protesters holding signs reading “Keep Refugees Out” and “No Sanctuary Cities.”
A tall, black man in a “Make America Great Again” baseball cap said the group was “trying to promote Donald Trump’s policies.”
Saying the message was “America for Americans,” Robert Peete of Make California Great Again said taxpayer money should be used for other purposes.
“There are white people in Long Beach living in the canal,” Peete said. “I’ve never seen that in my lifetime.’’
Others chanted “Build That Wall” as the two groups battled megaphone-to-megaphone, shouting back and forth and jockeying for room and camera angles on the outdoor stairs leading to the county boardroom.
Sheriff’s deputies stepped in more than once, speaking with representatives from both sides and trying to keep the peace.
Monroy said the two groups often end up in the same venue and there has sometimes been pushing and shoving, but no serious injuries have resulted.
The rallies broke up without incident, with leaders from both sides heading indoors to speak before the board, where Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas was forced to repeatedly caution them to stop shouting and disrupting the session.
“Why don’t you try respecting each other and everything will be fine,” Ridley-Thomas said.
Staffers reported that the vast majority of county departments offer services – including medical care and a public school education – to residents without regard to immigration status and do not maintain records on residents’ status. One exception is the Department of Public Social Services,
which is required by law to share that information.
Sheriff Jim McDonnell sought to assure residents that his department relies on community trust.
If people do not come forward to report crimes due to fear of deportation, “we’ll have more to worry about and fear than the words spoken on the presidential campaign trail,” McDonnell said.
He said his deputies would not arrest anyone based solely on their immigration status, calling that a “promise” as well as a department policy that is also written into law.
Assistant Sheriff Kelly Harrington conceded that Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents are at county jails “almost on a daily basis,” but said that less than 1 percent of inmates released from local jails are turned over to ICE agents.
Harrington said thousands of inmates had been released to ICE annually prior to enactment of the state Truth and Trust acts, which limited ICE hold requests, but put current numbers at closer to 1,000 each year.
Other speakers disagreed.
An “ICE hold gets put on all the clients I’ve seen go through the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department,” said Amanda Schuft of the Immigrant Defenders Law Center. She gave the example of one mentally ill man who spent a weekend in jail for petty theft and was held in ICE custody for two years.
Others argued that the board members weren’t doing what they were elected to do.
“California is under siege,” Tami Terusa of Californians for Trump told the supervisors, warning that the state “is going to be ground zero” in the fight to end sanctuary cities.
Some saw President-elect Donald Trump as a savior.
“This is an attack against the federal government,” said Shirley Husar of Urban Game Changers.
“As of January 20, we are asking that Donald J. Trump come and intervene on our behalf.”
Supervisor Kathryn Barger urged her colleagues to press for immigration reform at the federal level, saying she believed that there was bipartisan support for protecting Deferred Action for Childhood Arrvials.
“We have a responsibility to address this on the federal level and not continue to keep these people in the shadows and continue to give them a reason to hide,” Barger said.
More than 120 people signed up to speak before the board on the issue and dozens had that opportunity. But after a near-continuous series of outbursts and warnings, Ridley-Thomas called the board into a closed-door session.
The board returned roughly 90 minutes later and, acting on a motion by Solis, voted 4-1 to establish an Office of Immigrant Affairs. Barger cast the dissenting vote.
The board also directed departments not to ask about immigration status unless required by law and proposed that the county’s Office of Education consider a senior-level position to oversee immigrants’ concerns.