Democratic Leaders Urge Obama to Pardon ‘Dreamers’

November 23, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

It’s an American tradition, the presidential pardon of a turkey during the Thanksgiving season. Scheduled to take place Wednesday in the White House Rose Garden, the pardon allows the turkey to continue to live free.

At a news conference last Thursday, three Democratic House members urged President Barack to exercise the same compassion and constitutional authority to pardon 750,000 “Dreamers” before he leaves office.

Reps. Roybal-Allard (CA-40). Zoe Lofgren (CA-19) and Luis V. Gutierrez (IL-4) asked the commander-in-chief to protect undocumented young people brought to the United States as children, who signed up for his DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program.

Fearing that President-elect Donald Trump will repeal DACA once in office, the Democratic leaders want to ensure the three-quarters of a million young people commonly referred to as ‘dreamers” are protected from deportation.

“By no fault of their own, these Americans are prisoners in their own country, living their daily lives not knowing if they will be deported to a foreign country,” Roybal-Allard said Thursday at the U.S. Capitol.

“If they are forced to leave the United States, it is our country that loses.”

President Obama issued the executive order creating DACA in June 2012 to protect young people from deportation who were brought to the country illegally through no fault of their own by a parent or other guardian.

At the time, Obama said the young undocumented immigrants are “Americans in their heart” but not “on paper,” acknowledging the fact that many of those eligible for DACA have spent most of their lives in the U.S. and have no real ties to the country where they were born.

Fear is growing among undocumented residents that Trump could be getting ready to act on a campaign promise to deport 2 to 3 million people in the U.S. illegally with criminal backgrounds, and to reverse Obama’s executive actions creating DACA. Under DACA, three-quarters of a million immigrants without legal status have become eligible to receive a temporary, two-year renewable permit to work legally in the U.S., get a Social Security number, pay taxes and to get driver’s licenses, in addition to a reprieve from deportation.

To qualify, applicants must have been brought to the U.S. as children or teenagers, be under the age of 31, been in the country for at least five years, be pursuing an education or have already received a high school diploma or its equivalent.

Those who registered under the DACA initiative paid a fee, were fingerprinted, provided addresses of relatives and had to pass a criminal background check, which means the Department of Homeland Security could easily locate them if they were to become subject to deportation under the Trump Administration, the elected officials pointed out in a letter addressed to the president.

“Using your pardon authority, which is not subject to reversal, to protect young people who relied on the program you implemented is quite literally a matter of life and death,” the letter reads.

President Obama has not responded to the request directly but the White House reiterated the president takes the executive clemency power seriously and explained that his pardon could provide legal status to the undocumented individual, which DACA does not grant.

“As we have repeatedly said for years, only Congress can create legal status for undocumented individuals,” a White House official was quoted as saying.

The three members of congress point out that power to grant reprieves and pardons extends to civil immigration violations.

“We trust that you will consider our request with the utmost urgency given the gravity of the situation and hope that these pardons could be accomplished this Thanksgiving season,” the letter concluded.


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 Urged to Lift Ban On Obama’s Immigration Actions

March 10, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

California and the city of Los Angeles have joined 15 other states, the District of Columbia and 118 cities and counties urging the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday to lift an injunction on President Barack Obama’s executive actions shielding certain undocumented immigrants from deportation.

In separate amicus briefs they asked the Supreme Court to reverse an injunction in the case of United States v. Texas, upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, thereby prohibiting the federal government from implementing  immigration directives announced by the president in November 2014.

The injunction was issued against Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and an expanded version of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which call for deferring deportation proceedings and granting work permits to two groups of people: those who were brought illegally to the country as children and the undocumented parents of citizens or green card holders.

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

“President Obama has proposed common sense actions on immigration, which will allow millions of hard-working immigrants to come out of the shadows, contribute to the prosperity of this nation and build their American Dream,” California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris said Tuesday in a news release announcing the state’s court filing.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and City Attorney Mike Feuer – who co-drafted the brief with his New York counterparts — said Tuesday that by preventing the executive actions from moving forward, “integral” members of their respective cities and communities would be harmed.

“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.

The multi-state brief argues that the president’s immigration directives will benefit the states and further the public interest by allowing qualified undocumented immigrants to work legally and better support their families. As a result, the brief argues, state tax revenue will increase, public safety would be enhanced and tragic situations in which parents are deported away from their U.S. citizen children, who are left to rely on state services or extended family, would be avoided.

The benefits from allowing the president’s directives to take effect demonstrate there is no  “irreparable injury to the plaintiff States, and that the balance of hardships and public interest strongly favor allowing the directives to proceed without a preliminary injunction.”

The brief filed by Los Angeles and other cities and counties 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.

It argues that while injunction’s effects are “most immediately and acutely felt on the local level,” it was issued nationally “without any court considering local harms or weighing local harms against the narrow standing ‘injury’ established by plaintiffs: a claim by Texas, a single plaintiff state, of increased driver’s license processing costs.”

Also filing amicus briefs Tuesday was a diverse coalition of 326 immigration, civil rights, labor and social service groups, and a group of Catholic, Evangelical, Protestant and faith-based organizations.

“If the injunction is lifted, many families will be more secure, without the looming threat that loved ones will be deported at a moment’s notice,” according to the civil rights groups: National Immigration Law Center, the American Immigration Council, the Service Employees International Union, the Advancement Project, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and Mi Familia.

“Many deserving individuals will also have access to better jobs and the ability to improve their lives, the lives of their families, and their communities. DHS has discretion to grant or deny applications for the initiatives at issue, and the concocted argument to the contrary should not be used to prevent individuals from even applying,” the coalition said.

“The lives of real people and their American-born children — not some political targets used in talking points on a campaign trail — are at stake in this case,” stated Rocio Saenz, executive vice president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

Most of the families who apply under the president’s directives include American citizens, including children of DAPA parents who will be voting on behalf of their families this November, according to Ben Monterroso, executive director of Mi Familia Vota.

“They are already part of our communities, of our churches and schools, and of our local workforce. We should embrace their contributions that benefit all of us, instead of trying to rip apart their families,” Monterroso said.

Bill Canny, executive director, Migration and Refugee Services for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in a written statement said the “human consequences of our broken immigration system” is witnessed every day at U.S. Catholic Church’s social service agencies, hospitals, schools, and parishes. “We urgently need relief and justice for our immigrant brothers and sisters and a legal process that respects each person’s dignity, protects human rights, and upholds the rule of law. Although far from ideal, DACA/DAPA does that by keeping many families together and protecting children,” Canny said.

Reversing the lower court’s decision will allow approximately 5 million people, including 1.2 million Californians, to apply for protection from deportation and work authorization, according to California’s Attorney General.

Similar amicus briefs were submitted by Los Angeles city officials and others at previous stages of the case, including when the U.S. Supreme Court was still considering whether to take up the issue.

Information from City News Service used in this report.

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.”

Though Tempered, We Applaud Obama’s Action on Guns

January 7, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Judging by the reactions to President Obama’s new guidelines for tightening controls on gun sales from anti-gun control hard liners, you’d think he had just ordered the total confiscation of all guns from Americans: He didn’t.

Obama’s plan seeks to boost the number of firearm purchases that are recorded and speed up an improve background checks of gun buyers.

His plan falls short of closing a loophole that allows some gun dealers to not report gun sales at gun shows. Rather, the president’s plan calls for warning gun sellers that they could face prosecution if they don’t register with the government or fail to conduct background checks.

The president called for redefining who can be considered a gun dealer so that any person who transfers or sells a firearm to another person for profit must conduct a background check of the person who receives the firearm.

It also requires dealers to report lost or stolen guns.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan said Obama’s plan amounts to “intimidation” of the country’s law-abiding citizens. He said the president’s plan “undermines liberty.”

We don’t see the problems Ryan and pro-guns allege.

These same people are often the first to support other restrictions on civil liberties and the right to privacy, saying that if you are not guilty, you should have nothing to worry about if the government decides to spy on you, monitor your movements, or subject you to other forms of intrusion in the name of security.

We believe it’s completely reasonable for persons wanting to buy a firearm, a potentially lethal weapon, to be subjected to a background check, and to restrict the mentally ill from purchasing firearms.

What’s unreasonable is to say that just because the checks will not identify every single person who may use the weapon to harm an innocent person, we should not do any checks at all.

We also want to congratulate Mr. Obama for his effort to get the country to accept his very tempered effort to stop the mass shootings, the large number of suicides and wounding of innocent bystanders.

Where is our compassion for the victims? Those already killed or wounded, and those who will be the victims of gun violence in the future?

SCOTUS to Weigh In on DACA, DAPA

November 12, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

The Supreme Court will have the final say on immigration measures issued by President Barack Obama after a federal appeals court Monday ruled against his executive order that would have protected millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation.

The Justice Department announced Tuesday that it will take the case to the Supreme Court after disagreeing with the decision made after months of deliberation by the New Orleans Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which upholds the suspension of the president’s measures.

“The Department of Justice remains committed to take actions to solve the immigration issue as soon as possible…giving priority to the deportation of the worst offenders, and not people who have long lived in the U.S. and who are raising American children,” assured Spokesman Patrick Rodenbush.

“The Department disagrees with the adverse ruling by the Fifth Circuit and intends on seeking a review by the Supreme Court of the United States,” added Rodenbush.

Once the appeal if received by the US Supreme Court, justices still have to decide whether to review the merits of the case. If they do agree to take up the case, it’s unlikely a decision will be handed down before Obama leaves office next year.

The immediate impact of the Court of Appeals’ decision is the continued suspension of the president’s order that would have allowed millions of families across the country, that meet certain criteria, to apply for temporary relief from deportation by immigration authorities and in some cases to obtain a permit to work in the country.

During his daily briefing on Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest emphasized that the United States government “continues to firmly believe in the power of legal arguments” presented in favor of the measure and expressed optimism that the Supreme Court would overturn the Court of Appeals’ decision.

The decision by the Obama Administration to put the case before the High Court was widely expected by activists and immigrants, and could potentially create a battle over the president’s immigration policies in the middle of an election year and through the November 2016 presidential election.

The appeals court’s decision puts a halt to further implementation of the president’s 2012 Deferred Action program, widely known as DACA, an executive order protecting millions of young people from deportation who arrived in the US illegally as children, and DAPA, the president’s expansion last year of the program to include the parents of US-born children or legal residents.

Plaintiffs in the case, representing a coalition of 26 states, mostly Republicans, led by Texas, claim executive actions on immigration by Obama represent a drastic change in the country’s policies without the authorization of Congress.

On the other side of the battle is a coalition of 15 states, including California, plus the District of Columbia that decided to support defense of the president’s actions. The coalition will continue the fight at the Supreme Court, warned California Attorney General Kamala Harris during a press conference Tuesday. California has the largest number of undocumented immigrants in the country.

Harris, who said one in three potential beneficiaries of the executive actions reside in her state, stressed the “indisputable” positive impact of the measures on the California and US economy and the devastating consequences for immigrant families who continue “living in the shadows”.

Walter Dillinger, attorney general under former President Bill Clinton (1993-2001), said that, in legal terms, there is no doubt that “Congress has the authority to legislate on immigration and deportations,” but warned that making no decision “delegates” authority on the matter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The appeals court ruling “was not a surprise” to activists and immigrant advocates. Democratic presidential hopeful and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the ruling was “completely based on politics and not law.”

“It is well established that the President has the legal authority to issue these protections. I hope the Supreme Court will not delay in giving a fair hearing in this appeal, so millions of families no longer live without fear of being separated.”

Pope Canonizes U.S. First Hispanic Saint

September 24, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Father Junipero Serra, the 18th-century Spanish Franciscan priest who is both revered and reviled for founding nine missions in California, including those in San Juan Capistrano, San Gabriel and

San Diego, was canonized Wednesday by Pope Francis during a Mass in Washington, D.C.

Marking the occasion, ceremonial bell-ringings were held at Mission San Juan Capistrano at 9 a.m. and noon, and visitors were invited to watch the canonization Mass in the Great Stone Church Ruins.

Hundreds more people gathered at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles to watch the Mass, which was celebrated by the pontiff at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., where the pope arrived Tuesday to begin a U.S. visit. The Mass was celebrated in Spanish.

Pope Francis meets with Pres. Obama Wednesday during first visit to U.S. (The White House)

Pope Francis meets with Pres. Obama Wednesday during first visit to U.S. (The White House)

“It is fitting that history’s first Hispanic pope will give the USA its first Hispanic saint,” Los Angeles Roman Catholic Archbishop Jose Gomez wrote on his Twitter page Tuesday in anticipation of the Mass, which he attended. With Serra, he wrote, the pope “is giving Americans a saint who reflects his own spiritual priorities.”

The announcement earlier this year that Serra would be canonized was hailed by many Catholics, but it was also met with derision by critics. Before Serra’s arrival, hundreds of thousands of indigenous people lived in what is today California. But the mission system imposed pressure on Indians to assimilate while also exposing thousands to foreign diseases, wiping out villages, native animals and plants.

Critics have accused Serra of carrying out acts that were essentially genocidal.

Serra was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1988, beginning his path toward sainthood.

Pope Francis hailed Serra as “the evangelizer of the West in the United States” for his founding of the first nine of California’s 21 missions. With the canonization Mass, Serra became the first saint canonized in the United States, and Gomez called it the high point of the pope’s visit.

The pope was so committed to canonizing Serra that he agreed to bypass the traditional requirement of a second miracle being attributed to him. He was already credited with healing a nun of lupus as his first miracle.

“Today we remember one of those witnesses who testified to the joy of the gospel in these lands, Father Junipero Serra,” the pontiff said during the Mass. “He was the embodiment of a church which goes forth, a church which sets out to bring everywhere the reconciling tenderness of God. Junipero Serra left his native land and its way of life.

“He was excited about blazing trails, going forth to meet many people, learning and valuing their particular customs and ways of life,” he said. “He learned how to bring to birth and nurture God’s life in the faces of everyone he met. Junipero sought to defend the dignity of the native community, to protect it from those who mistreated and abused — mistreatment and wrongs which today still trouble us, especially because of the hurt which they caused in the lives of many people.”

Supreme Court Rules Nationwide Subsidies Should Stay

July 1, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

New America Media – Debbie Richardson, 62, said she had been having the “heebie-jeebies” for the last few months, wondering if she might be forced to disenroll from Florida’s health care exchange should the U.S. Supreme Court strike down the nationwide tax subsidies under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Now, she can breathe easy.

In a 6-3 ruling handed down by the high court Thursday, the justices said that the 8.7 million people like Richardson who are currently receiving subsides to make heath insurance affordable on the exchange will continue receiving it no matter where they live. The ruling was a resounding affirmation of Congress’ intention of subsidizing insurance coverage under ACA.

“I was a wreck wondering what I’d do if Florida lost its subsidies,” said the Clearwater, Fla., resident, who didn’t want her real name used for this story, in a telephone interview.

Florida is among 37 states where the federal government set up a health care exchange – — under ACA because those states decided they would not set up their own.

At 1.4 million, Florida leads the nation in the number of people who get subsidies, said Nick Duran, director of the Florida chapter of Enroll America, the nation’s leading health care enrollment coalition.

He said 93.5 percent of Florida residents enrolled on the exchange are getting financial assistance. Nationwide, about 85 percent who purchased insurance on exchanges qualify for assistance to help pay for coverage, based on their income.

The plaintiffs in the King v Burwell case, which generated the ruling, maintained that people who bought insurance on the federal exchanges were not entitled to subsidies. They noted that the law says financial help is available for those who enroll through exchanges “established by the state.” The Obama administration argued that Congress clearly intended to help everyone who qualified for it.

Had the court ruled against the administration, many of those on the federally run exchanges would have been unable to afford insurance, forcing them to drop their coverage. The court’s majority agreed that this would have left insurers with a large pool of sicker customers, who would need to stay insured to get required care. That would have resulted in premiums going up across the board, putting the ACA in jeopardy and caused what the justices called a “death spiral” for the law.

California, a leader in making health care accessible to most of its residents, and one of the first states to set up its own exchange, had nothing immediate to fear about which way the Supreme Court ruled on the King v Burwell case. Even so, had the ruling gone against the Obama administration, it could have resulted in changes to the ACA down the road, observed Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, the state’s exchange.

Dana Howard, deputy director of Covered California, strenuously dismissed reports in the media that enrollment on the state’s exchange has dropped by almost 30 percent this year. He said that the state registered 85 percent of renewals in January 2015, bringing the number of enrollees to 1.35 million.

“The exchange is working extremely well,” Howard asserted. “We have exceeded our projections (of 1.3 million.)”

Of the 9 million people enrolled in exchanges nationwide, the federal government pays an average subsidy of $272 a month. Richardson pays $356 for the $800-a-month plan she’s on.

She said she couldn’t afford to be without health care because she has a genetic disorder that makes her a prime candidate for a stroke unless she manages her cholesterol. Within months after her employer-sponsored health insurance ended two years ago when her company folded, the federal government stepped in to set up Florida’s health care exchange.

Richardson purchased a Silver Plan, but when it came up for renewal last October, she switched to a lower-level Bronze Plan, which has a $6,000 deductible needed to be paid out-of-pocket before coverage kicks in.

“Thanks to the ACA, no insurer could deny me coverage because of my pre-existing condition,” she said.

Richardson was more recently diagnosed with cancer. Between the two serious health challenges she faces, she said, she wouldn’t be able to afford to pay for her medications but for her insurance.

“I am not alone in this situation,” Richardson said. “There are millions out there who are like me.”

Undocumented Urged to Get Ready for Programs to Avoid Deportation

May 21, 2015 by · 2 Comments 

Tuesday was a bittersweet day for East Los Angeles resident Isabel Medina. It was the day she was supposed to become eligible to apply for a program protecting her temporarily from deportation.

At a roundtable discussion Tuesday at the county’s Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration, Medina instead spoke of the disappointment she feels that her dream has been put on hold by a federal judge’s injunction halting President Obama’s executive order on immigration announced last fall, but pledged to continue preparing for the day when she might be able to apply.

Director of CHIRLA Angelica Salas (center) announces the launch of ‘Ready California’ along with a coalition of supporters, including non-profits and politicians. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

Director of CHIRLA Angelica Salas (center) announces the launch of ‘Ready California’ along with a coalition of supporters, including non-profits and politicians. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

A coalition of community, faith-based, unions, legal services, civil rights and nonprofit groups participated in the discussion and the press conference following to announce the launch of Ready California, a statewide campaign to help undocumented immigrants like Medina prepare to apply for temporary relief from deportation under programs outlined in the president’s executive order they believe will eventually be implemented.

The programs would allow about 5 million of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. to temporarily avoid deportation and receive a work permit good for three years if they meet certain criteria. Texas and 25 other states, however, filed a federal lawsuit to stop the programs, prompting the judge’s injunction halting implementation as the case winds its way through the courts.

Lea este artículo en Español: Campaña Anima Indocumentados a Prepararse para la Acción Ejecutiva

The application process was originally scheduled to begin Tuesday, May 19.

The Ready California initiative will help make sure as many undocumented immigrants living in California as possible are ready to apply when the time comes, said members of the coalition.

“We have to facilitate individuals’ ability to prove that they qualify for these programs,” said Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights in Los Angeles (CHIRLA) during the roundtable discussion hosted by New American Media before the rally.

According to Salas, many of the individuals who qualify for the original DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program or its expansion, which allows people who were brought to the country illegally as children to temporarily avoid deportation, or the new Deferred Action for Parental Accountability, DAPA — which would allow some parents of U.S. born children and permanent residents the same temporary reprieve — also qualify for other existing immigration pathways.

Individuals can have their cases reviewed through Ready California and may find they have other options to legalize their immigration status, Salas said.

Sally Kinoshita, deputy director for the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, said undocumented immigrants should start working now to gather the documents they will need to apply, such as a Mexican passport, Consular Matriculas and copies of any criminal or misdemeanor court records.

According to CHIRLA, Los Angeles County has the highest number of undocumented immigrants: 500,000 with more than 50% from Mexico.

Ready California is also working to sign up lenders willing to provide low-interest loans to people who need help paying the $465 application fee.

“Our goal is to help change the future of ten thousand families in California,” Diana Cervantes, director of Community Trust Prospera, a division of Self-Help FCU in the San Gabriel Valley told EGP. “Currently, we have $5 million put aside for the loans, but if we can get more through donations we will help more people,” she said.

Alvaro Huerta, a staff attorney with the National Immigrant Legal Resource Center, said the courts move slowly and it could still be weeks, months or longer before the injunction is lifted. He said the worst-case scenario is it will not be “decided until the next term of the Supreme Court, which can go as late as June of next year.”

In the meantime, Ready California is working to bring more allies to the table. According to Salas, they need more nonprofit groups and legal service providers to get involved. She estimated in L.A. County alone, at the current participation rate, each legal partner would have to process 5,000 cases a year to meet the demand.

At a press conference following the roundtable discussion, Secretary of State Alex Padilla said it’s “not a matter of if, but a matter of when” the president’s programs will take effect.

“And for any of the doubters that are out there…for anyone who claims to be for family values — we hear that term all the time in politics — then you have no choice but to be for DACA and DAPA because it’s not just justice to immigrant families but a pivotal point to keep families together,” Padilla said.

In California alone, more than 1.35 million undocumented individuals are eligible for the administrative relief programs outlined by the president, according to Ready California.

For more information, visit:


Twitter @jackieguzman

Task Force on New Americans Highlights Importance of Immigrant Media

April 23, 2015 by · 1 Comment 

New America Media – When President Obama announced his executive actions on Nov. 20, the two most controversial programs got the most attention. The expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and the launch of Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA), which would temporarily protect millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation, were blocked from going into effect by a federal judge, a decision that is now being appealed.

But other actions announced by the president that day have gone into effect, and although they haven’t gotten as much attention, they could have an enormous impact on the 8.8 million legal permanent residents in the United States who are eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship.

Among them is the establishment of the Task Force on New Americans, an interagency effort to develop a coordinated strategy to help integrate immigrants and refugees.

For the past few months, Task Force co-chairs Cecilia Muñoz, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, and León Rodríguez, director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), have been meeting with stakeholders and soliciting recommendations from the public in order to develop a “coordinated and deliberate” strategy on immigrant integration, according to Muñoz.

Last week, the Task Force released a report to the White House that lays out core goals and recommended actions the federal government could take. These include elevating inspirational stories of new Americans; engaging in strategies to make sure eligible immigrants are aware of the benefits of citizenship; and expanding outreach and partnership with community organizations, philanthropic groups and the private sector.

The Task Force held a national call in January and three national listening sessions with a total of 1,000 participants. According to Rodriguez, the first major idea that came out of these sessions was the importance of maximizing traditional and social media outlets, specifically media that cater to immigrant communities, to reach new Americans and immigrants who are eligible to become U.S. citizens.

Other ideas included looking into creative ways to help cover the cost of naturalizing. Although the federal government does not plan to reduce the $680 fee, Rodriguez said they plan to work with the private sector on other ways to cover the costs, including grants and microloans.

In addition to the citizenship awareness campaign, the Task Force has agreements with Los Angeles, Chicago and Nashville, and plans to partner with other cities that are part of the Welcoming America movement in the coming months. It will also encourage new Americans to do community service and to learn more about how to start a business.

“The federal government has a lot of tools at its disposal,” said Muñoz. The goal of the Task Force, she said, is “to make sure we’re using those tools.”

New America Media is part of the New Americans Campaign, a national network of legal-service providers, faith-based organizations, businesses, foundations and community leaders that aims to make naturalization more accessible. For more information about the New Americans Campaign, go to

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