DACA’s D-Day: ‘We Vow to Fight’

September 7, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

At press conferences and protests across the country Tuesday, elected officials and immigrant activists lashed out angrily against Pres. Donald Trump’s decision to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, vowing to fight to protect its beneficiaries often referred to as Dreamers.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the announcement Tuesday, saying the president has decided to let the program expire in March 2018, giving the Congress 6 months to pass a permanent legislative solution to the plight of undocumented young people whose parents brought them illegally to the U.S. as children and have done nothing wrong.

Sessions said the program started in 2012 by then-President Barack Obama was an unconstitutional “expansion of executive power,” taking authority that belongs to the Congress.

“The legislative branch, not the executive branch, writes these laws — this is the bedrock of our Constitutional system, which I took a solemn oath to preserve, protect, and defend,” said Trump in his official statement.

Under DACA, an estimated 800,000 people who were brought to the country as children – including 220,000 in California – have received a temporary reprieve from deportation, social security number and permission to work legally in the U.S. with a 2-year renewable work permits.

Within minutes of the announcement, supporters of the DACA program began a flurry of news conferences, issuing statements condemning the decision and demanding quick action by the Republican-led Congress to pass legislation to protect Dreamers, fully aware that the legislative body has repeatedly failed to act to reform the country’s immigration laws.

“President Trump has flagrantly sullied our American values and ideals with this decision,” said Angelica Salas, executive director of The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA), one of the organizers of a protest rally at Olvera Street in downtown Los Angeles attended by over a thousand people.

Salas pointed out that “Congress has failed to pass the DREAM Act not once but three times and it has refused to approve comprehensive immigration reform for nearly two decades.

“Will Congress feel compelled this time around to act and approve a clean, stand-alone bill to protect and bring justice to young immigrants and their families? Let’s hope so.”

Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Los Angeles, called the president’s decision to rescind the program “outrageous.” She joined her Democratic colleagues for a press conference at the Capitol, where they called on the their Republican fellow members of Congress to work with them to pass legislation before DACA ends.

At a press conference also attended by members of the County Board of Supervisors, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said, “President Trump’s action on DACA is cruel — it threatens to tear families apart, put our economy at risk, and will do nothing to unify America or make us more secure.”

The mayor also urged congress to act quickly on legislation: “… They belong here. And we’ll fight for them to stay.”

Sup. Hilda Solis said the decision not only puts the future of almost 800,000 DREAMers in danger, but also “the future of almost 65,000 undocumented students who graduate high school every year and could have been supported through DACA.”

“According to the Center for American Progress, DACA beneficiaries will contribute $460.3 billion to the U.S. gross domestic product over the next decade – economic growth that will now be lost,” Solis said in press statement.

In defending the decision, Trump said “Only by the reliable enforcement of immigration law can we produce safe communities, a robust middle class and economic fairness for all Americans.”

He noted that officials from 10 states are suing over the program, and his legal advisers have determined that it is “unlawful and unconstitutional and cannot be successfully defended in court.”

Not everyone disagreed with the president’s position.

In a video posted on YouTube, Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said “President Trump’s decision helps restore the rule of law and constitutional governance … The Trump administration’s enforcement action on immigration shows the best immigration reform is to finally enforce the law,” he said.

Republican Congressman Darrell Issa of Vista, California, said Obama’s unilateral action was just a “temporary Band-aid.” He went on to say that Trump’s action “puts the onus on Congress to address this challenge in the right way: for the long-haul, with respect for our nation’s laws, a desire to enhance the integrity of our borders, and a sense of compassion for those who were brought here in their childhood years ago and wish to stay as productive members of our communities.”

Saying he is “eager to get to work on a permanent fix,” he called on “Democrats and Republicans alike to immediately put political posturing aside and let this be a catalyst to achieve long-overdue reforms in this important area of concern.”

California Senate Republican Leader Patricia Bates, R-Laguna Niguel, said the president had acted on a promise he made during his campaign. “Now the real work must begin,” she said, but adding “that will only happen with bipartisan leadership from Congress and the President.” She criticized past Republican and Democratic presidential administrations for failing to pass immigration reform. “Delay and inaction are no longer options,” said Bates.

At a noontime rally in front of City Hall, sporting a red baseball cap with Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan, Arthur Schaper, a blogger on the website asheisministries.blogspot.com defended the president’s action as the right decision for the country.

At the same rally, Latino Trump supporter Fernando Garcia said Obama should have done things differently because he knew this day would eventually come: “Why did he not make us all citizens back then?” he said.

Immigration rights activists urged DACA supporters to flood legislators with letters and phone calls demanding they act to protect DACA recipients through permanent legislation,

They also reminded DACA recipients, many shaken to the core with fear and uncertainty, that they still have rights and their status, at least for the time being, is unchanged.

According to Ready California, a statewide collaborative working to empower immigrant communities through access to information and legal services, as of Tuesday, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has stopped accepting initial applications for DACA and will discontinue renewing DACA applications as of March 5, 2018.

“However, DACA recipients’ work permits will continue to be valid until their expiration date. Employers do not have the right to fire DACA recipients unless their work permits have expired,” the group said in an advisory.

Current DACA beneficiaries whose employment authorizations will expire between now and March 5, 2018, only have until Oct. 5 to file a request with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

If approved, the renewal is expected to be good for two years, or until 2019. If your permit expires after March 5, 2018, however, USCIS will no longer accept and adjudicate their applications for renewal, effectively ending the authorization to work legally beginning March 6, 2018.

Ready California is advising DACA recipients to consult with an experienced immigration attorney; avoid fraudulent service providers; and to avoid any negative contact with law enforcement.

“Any arrest, charge, or conviction, especially DUI or conduct related to drugs can have negative immigration consequences. Contact with law enforcement can result in exposure to the immigration authorities,” they cautioned.

Rally Protests Officer Involved Shootings

April 9, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Community organizers, frustrated by a lack of official data, Tuesday provided a name-by-name listing of 617 people killed by law enforcement in Los Angeles County since Jan. 1, 2000, a number later confirmed by the District Attorney’s Office.

More than 200 community advocates, many of them carrying cardboard signs in the shape of cemetery headstones with the names of people killed in officer-involved shootings, marched downtown and assembled outside the Hall of Administration, where the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors was holding its weekly meeting.

Lying down in the middle of Temple Street, which was blocked off by police officers, the protesters, who represented a coalition of youth-led groups, called for demilitarization of law enforcement, stronger oversight and investigation of police misconduct at every level of government, and more funding for youth jobs and community centers.

In addition to a list of detailed demands, the organizers handed out a name-by-name listing of the individuals they said had been killed by sheriff’s deputies or one of the dozens of police agencies in the county.

Based on the coalition’s analysis, 342 people killed in deputy- or officer-involved shootings between 2007-2014 ranged in age from 17 to 80 years old and 28 percent were black, though black residents comprise just over 9 percent of the county’s population, according to the latest available census data. Fifty-four percent of those killed were Latino, according to the protest organizers, while roughly 48 percent of county residents are Latino.

The coalition — organizing as S.T.O.P. Police Violence — called on the 57 law enforcement agencies in the county to release data on stop-and-frisk contacts, arrests and use of force and said the state should appoint a special prosecutor to investigate law enforcement use of force.

“It is unrealistic that county prosecutors, who must build all their cases with the close cooperation of law enforcement, will ever have the independence, intent or power to prosecute officer wrongdoing,” the group said in a statement.

District Attorney Jackie Lacey opposes the appointment of independent counsel to review officer-involved shootings, saying that policies protect the integrity of investigations by her office.

“Specially trained prosecutors and investigators review all allegations of police misconduct in accordance with the law,” D.A.’s spokeswoman Jane Robison said. “They roll out to all officer-involved shootings to ensure that the inquiry is conducted in a fair and professional manner.”

Robison pointed to the successful prosecution of former LAPD officer Ronald Orosco, who was sentenced to five years in prison in 2001 for shooting an unarmed motorist.

The youth coalition also has ideas about what the pending Civilian Oversight Commission for the Sheriff’s Department should look like, saying the group should have subpoena power and not include any law enforcement representatives, among other demands.

The first of a series of town halls to discuss the formation of that commission is scheduled for Thursday at a Florence-Firestone community center.

The town halls are designed to gather feedback on the organization’s mission, size, structure and authority.

“We just want to hear from people in the community,” said Dean Hansell, an attorney and chair of a working group charged with setting up the commission.

The working group, which also includes Inspector General Max Huntsman and a representative from the Sheriff’s Department, expects to report back to the Board of Supervisors in June with a draft ordinance governing the commission’s work.

Hansell said the team was also hoping to strengthen the ordinance establishing the Office of Inspector General by creating an agreement between the OIG, the Sheriff’s Department and the commission on investigations, as well as setting up subpoena power for the OIG.

The protesters departed Temple Street after more than two hours of speeches and chanting, but they left a message behind. More than 100 cardboard “gravestones” bearing the names and some details of those shot by police or sheriff’s deputies remained on the steps and littering the lawn into the late afternoon.

“It matters when you see their names. It matters when you know someone who was shot,” one of the protesters shouted to sheriff’s deputies monitoring the crowd from inside the building.

Proposed Merger of County Health Services Decried

January 15, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

A proposal to consolidate the county’s public health, mental health and health services departments drew fire from mental health advocates and others Tuesday.

Supervisor Michael Antonovich proposed the consolidation as a way to “enhance patient care and access” and “streamline bureaucratic processes.”

Dozens of mental health advocates argued that consolidating services would ultimately short-change mentally ill patients.

“Large health systems have not typically provided enough focus on mental health,’ said Brittney Weissman, executive director of the Los Angeles County Council of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

When mental health services were previously grouped with general medical care, “mental health became a stepchild,” she said.

Many who said they live with mental illness praised the Department of Mental Health for helping them dramatically change their lives.

Some opposed the plan outright, while others urged the board to get feedback from stakeholders, invoking the slogan “Nothing about us without us.”

“We all agree about having stakeholders in the process,” Antonovich said.

Dr. Jonathan Fielding, who headed the Department of Public Health for 16 years, warned that if his old department became a division of the Department of Health Services, it would “jeopardize the health of Angelenos” as “public health has a fundamentally different mission than DHS.”

Still, Fielding said it was “well worth considering” an umbrella agency over all three departments to promote coordination and collaboration.

The Department of Public Health is responsible for managing outbreaks of communicable diseases; runs programs to promote health goals such as childhood vaccination; and inspects restaurants and nursing homes. It is designed to serve all 10 million county residents, Fielding told the board, rather than the roughly 10 percent of residents that make use of county clinics and hospitals run by DHS.

The union representing county healthcare workers signaled its potential support, calling consolidation a “bold idea.”

“Done right,” the change could cut through bureaucratic red tape and improve patient care, said Bob Schoonover, president of Service Employees International Union Local 721.

Supervisors Hilda Solis, Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl each expressed support for breaking down walls between departments.

Schoonover voiced his confidence in Dr. Mitchell Katz, who runs DHS and could be chosen to lead an umbrella agency. No permanent replacement has yet been hired for Fielding, who retired last year.

Dr. Marvin Southard, who has run the Department of Mental Health since 1998, said he would work to make sure that Los Angeles County remained a “national leader in providing for hope, wellness and recovery” in whatever organizational structure the board put in place.

Katz told the board he envisioned “three independent departments working together,” each with its own budget. He said no jobs should be lost as a result of the new structure.

In an interview with City News Service, Katz offered more details.

The three departments would work “as equals … each helping each other to do a better job,” Katz said.

Staffers would be more likely to collaborate to solve problems if they were part of a single agency with a common set of priorities, he said.

“We don’t have to shake everything up,” said the DHS director, but he pointed to substance abuse as a problem that typically requires attention from all three departments.

One  ”compelling” statistic, Katz said, is that those suffering from serious mental illness have a life expectancy roughly 20 years shorter than non-sufferers. This is true even though they typically die not from suicide, but medical causes, he said.

Supervisor Don Knabe stressed that the proposal amounted to a “look-see,” saying he had fielded many calls about the issue by telling constituents to “take a deep breath.”

The board directed a working group to report back in 60 days with a potential structure for consolidation, a timeline for implementation and drawbacks to integration. The group was asked to gather input from various stakeholders.

At Ridley-Thomas’ urging, the group will consider merging the Sheriff’s Department’s medical services bureau, as well.

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