LOS ANGELES – The reconstituted Board of Supervisors voted 4-0 Tuesday to explore strategies to protect county residents from any potential changes in federal immigration policy.
Supervisor Hilda Solis recommended the analysis, saying many of her constituents are worried about President-elect Donald Trump’s statements about illegal immigration.
“In the last two, three weeks people have been very disturbed, very distraught, in particular our most vulnerable, our children,” Solis told City News Service in an earlier interview. “Our young children who are thinking, `Mom, are you going to get deported because you’re not here legally and I was born here? What’s going to happen to me? What’s going to happen to us?”‘
Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who co-authored the motion with Solis, said, “We all came here on different ships, but we’re on the same boat now” and told her colleagues she was prepared to tell Washington, not in my house, not in my county, not in my state.”
Supervisor Kathryn Barger abstained from the vote.
Solis said she and Kuehl wanted to defend changes made by the county in recent years.
I would hate to see us claw back some of the reforms that we made with law enforcement as a result of getting rid of 287g (an agreement that had sheriff’s deputies enforcing immigration law) and also providing more of a buffer between ICE agents and their ability to come into our jails,” Solis said.
The board directed a task force to evaluate all the ways in which county departments help immigrants and how funding for those programs could be affected by changes at the federal level.
It also asked the task force to look at setting up a permanent Office of Immigrant Affairs and explore the county’s authority to prevent federal immigration enforcement at courts, schools and hospitals.
Supervisor Janice Hahn said she was horrified by the idea that residents who shared personal information when enrolling in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program might be deported using that same data.
Hahn vowed to fight that possibility even “if we have to build a wall around Los Angeles County to protect them.”
Barger suggested that the board use its powerful voice to tell its legislative representatives and lobbyists in Washington that immigration reform is a priority for Los Angeles County.
“I find it … shameful that on the one hand the federal government would reimburse us for” for putting immigrants in jail, Barger said, “but will not reimburse us for basic health care” for those same residents.
Solis and Hahn expressed some skepticism about whether it would make a difference. Hahn, a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, said she and others on the Hill had begged House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, to put immigration reform to a vote.
Barger ultimately withdrew her amendment.
Solis stressed that all immigrant communities were at risk given what she called Trump’s incendiary language on the campaign trail.
“This is not just about protecting people who speak Spanish and look like Hilda Solis,” she told her colleagues, mentioning students from all over the world who may have overstayed their visas.
Nearly half of the county’s 3 million immigrant residents are citizens, Solis said. The balance includes legal permanent residents, refugees granted asylum, immigrants granted temporary relief under DACA and undocumented immigrants.
Trump has threatened to rollback DACA, which gives children brought to the United States before the age of 16 the ability to apply for work permits and live without the threat of deportation. The Center for American Progress estimated that deporting DACA workers could create a $433.4 billion loss in national gross domestic product over a decade.
Solis said she hoped Trump would be persuaded by economic arguments, saying mass deportation “would affect our ports, our economy, our growing economy,” and adding that immigrants are working to build many of the downtown towers under construction.
President Barack Obama took executive action to expand DACA and implement a similar program for parents, called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents. Those moves have been blocked by lawsuits that went as far as the U.S. Supreme Court, where a 4-4 vote in June sent the matter back to the lower court. Trump has promised to terminate both programs.
The president-elect once threatened widespread deportation but later seemed to soften his tone, saying in a “60 Minutes” interview that he would focus on roughly 2 to 3 million illegal immigrants in the United States with criminal records.
Obama has deported an estimated 2.5 million illegal immigrants since 2009, more than half of whom were convicted criminals, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement data.
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