Tag Archives: Immigration

Ending DACA Would be Disastrous for California

Congress must take action immediately.
by Brian Leubitz

The rumors are growing that Trump is planning on “ending DACA as we know it” on Friday.

President Trump plans to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program “as it exists today” on Friday, Fox News reports.

Under DACA, nearly 800,000 people brought to the country illegally as children have received work permits and deferral from deportation.

According to Fox, a senior administration official told correspondent John Roberts that Trump would end the program “as early as” Friday. (The Hill)

This would not only be a disaster for the recipient Dreamers but also for our state and nation. Nearly a quarter of a million Californians have been accepted into the DACA program, allowing these young immigrants to get jobs, live their lives, and California is better for it.

According to federal data, close to 223,000 young people have been approved for DACA in California in the program’s five-year history. If DACA recipients lose their work eligibility, there will be ripple effects, said Bill Hing, who teaches immigration law at the University of San Francisco.

“These folks will be driven underground, and the underground economy will expand, because folks are afraid,” Hing said. “They are going to be working under the table. We will lose overnight the economic contributions of 200-plus thousand folks in California, and that is going to hurt our economy.” (KQED)

Congress needs to take immediate action to fix this looming crisis. There have been indications that there could be votes for setting up some legal status for Dreamers in the house when an amendment in support of the Dreamers saw a flurry of Republican votes:

Twenty-six Republicans rebelled against an amendment to the spending bill that would end President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA — an initiative that has granted stays of deportation to thousands of young undocumented immigrants, many of whom were brought into the country illegally by their parents. Though they are all staunch critics of Obama and oppose his unilateral changes to immigration policy, they cannot reconcile that opposition with their overall support for the policies he has put into place. The amendment, sponsored by Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., passed — just barely — by a vote of 218-209.

Some of the Republicans who voted against the provision are those who typically oppose legislative language to roll back DACA or other similar programs offering deportation relief within certain immigrant communities, and strongly support passing comprehensive immigration overhaul legislation: Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida; Jeff Denham and David Valadao of California; and Mike Coffman of Colorado, among others. (RollCall)

Now, seeing as how this is a Republican Congress with a crazy man in the White House, you never know what is going to happen. But this is a rare opportunity for bipartisan action. Let’s just hope that the current occupant of the White House can see past his own rhetoric to find some compassion.

A Necessary Drop in the Immigration Bucket

California leaders agree to $3M for legal aid for undocumented children

While three million dollars is really just a drop in the bucket for the  the many undocumented children and their legal expenses, it sends a strong statement:

Gov. Jerry Brown, Attorney General Kamala Harris and Legislative leaders announced legislation Thursday that sets aside the money for non-profits that provide legal help to unaccompanied minors currently in California.

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“These young people have legal rights and responsibilities, but they cannot fully participate in complex immigration proceedings without an attorney,” Harris said. “It is critical that these children, many of whom are fleeing extreme violence in Central America, have access to due process and adequate legal representation.” (SF Chronicle / Melody Gutierrez)

While Rick Perry is sending the national guard to the border, California leaders are doing what they can to help these children. It is a positive step, and shows that America (and California specifically) is still a caring nation.

Jeff Denham Signs On to Immigration Reform

Central Valley Congressman has strong opponents

by Brian Leubitz

Jeff Denham has made some waves over the past 36 hours as he became the first Republican Congress member to sign on to the House Democrats immigration reform proposal.

A Republican congressman from a heavily Hispanic district is breaking ranks from his party to join Democrats in an eleventh-hour push for a broad immigration overhaul before the end of the year. Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) plans to sign on as the lone GOP member with 185 Democrats to co-sponsor a plan that would give millions of unauthorized immigrants the chance to attain citizenship.

A handful of House Republicans have expressed support for citizenship legislation similar to the bipartisan bill that passed the Senate over the summer. But Denham is taking the additional – and politically provocative – step of locking arms with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and other Democrats trying to neutralize opposition from House conservatives and shake up a polarized immigration debate.(WaPo)

Denham has a strong challenger in Michael Eggman and some lagging poll numbers after the shutdown. He needs a change in the conversation from the disaster that the Republicans brought down upon the country. Immigration is a pivotal issue in a district with a strong Latino voter base, and Denham has never been a true believer in the rightwing on this front, so this is something of a fit. But it is a fit that was almost preordained by the politics.

But, at this point, a lot is still needed to make immigration reform actually happen. And even if there is some political cynicism at work, at least it is going the right direction.

Undocumented Immigrants to get Drivers Licenses. Finally.

Ten years after Gov. Davis signed the bill for the first time, we may get them for real

by Brian Leubitz

Asm. Alejo’s AB 60 to provide drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants was presumed to be in a holding pattern for next year. However, at the last minute yesterday, the logjam cleared, and the Legislature sent the bill to the Governor.

The governor, for his part, says that he will sign it.

“This bill will enable millions of people to get to work safely and legally,” Brown, a Democrat, said in an email sent to reporters shortly after midnight. “Hopefully it will send a message to Washington that immigration reform is long past due.”

California will not be the first state to have such a license, Utah has one that says “temporary visitor’s drivers license” in big letters on the front.  California will attempt to be somewhat more discreet, but it still must be clearly labeled to comply with federal law.

After the change was made, the bill even got a handful of Republican votes. It seems a few GOP legislators understand that the risks of inaction were higher than the risks of action. Sen. Canella (R-Ceres) even led a group of Republicans calling on the federal government to take action on immigration reform.

Ammiano’s Trust Act for Local Discretion on Immigration Detention Headed to Governor

Tom AmmianoTrust Act would allow discretion to enforce ICE requests

by Brian Leubitz

As if to show just how polarized our nation is, California is moving towards a more humane program for immigration enforcement, just as other states are rushing past the boundaries of sanity (and the Constitution) to show how anti-immigrant they truly are. On Monday, the Senate passed Tom Ammiano’s AB 4, the so-called Trust Act, to allow local officials discretion on enforcement of voluntary ICE requests.

The bill – passed Thursday on a 24-10 vote – seeks to reduce the deportation of Californians under the discredited S-Comm program. The federal program, ostensibly designed to expel people with serious convictions, has instead resulted in the deportation of more than 95,000 people. More than two-thirds of those had either never been convicted of any crime, or convicted only of low level offenses.

The bill allows local jails to detain people for extra time after receiving requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement if the person has been convicted of a crime designated as a severe or violent felony. Local officials will still have the discretion to hold people, or grant release on bail, as the severity of charges warrant. These ICE requests are voluntary, according to the California Attorney General.

There are many problems with the status quo, but to really understand why it is so dangerous, consider this. If you knew that you were not in the country legally, would you call the police if you were involved in a domestic violence incident? Or just a plain old robbery? Recent research confirms that the program has led to decreased confidence in the police in Latino communities, where residents report being much less likely to contact law enforcement.

This is dangerous, flat out. End of statement. If we do not allow members of our communities, no matter what their immigration status, to communicate freely with our police officers, we are making their jobs more difficult. And we are making our communities less safe as crimes go unpunished. We are inviting criminals to a whole community of silent victims. It is a toxic brew no matter how you stir it.

Now, Asm. Ammiano tried with a similar bill last year, AB 1081, but that was vetoed. In his veto message, Brown makes a case for the use of discretion at the local level:

…Until we have immigration reform, federal agents shouldn’t try to coerce local law enforcement officers into detaining people who’ve been picked up for minor offenses and pose no reasonable threat to their community.

But I am unable to sign this bill as written. Under the bill, local officers would be prohibited from complying with an immigration detainer unless the person arrested was charged with, or has been previously convicted of, a serious or violent felony. Unfortunately, the list of offenses codified in the bill is fatally flawed because it omits many serious crimes. For example, the bill would bar local cooperation even when the person arrested has been convicted of certain crimes involving child abuse, drug trafficking, selling weapons, using children to sell drugs, or gangs. I believe it’s unwise to interfere with a sheriff’s discretion to comply with a detainer issued for people with these kinds of troubling criminal records.

The significant flaws in this bill can be fixed, and I will work with the Legislature to see that the bill is corrected forthwith.

This bill represents that compromise Brown wanted. It allows sheriffs and police departments to hold violent or dangerous undocumented immigrants under the ICE requests, but also allows communities the flexibility they need to enforce the law. This is still far from the perfect answer, that would require an overhaul of the federal S-Comm program at the very least. In the end, real solutions lie in comprehensive federal immigration reform, something the Republicans in DC seem intent on blocking.

The bill will go back to the Assembly to concur on a few Senate changes, and then back to the governor shortly thereafter.

Photo credit: Tom Ammiano at SF Progressive Convention 2007 by flickr user Steve Rhodes.

Nativism, Elections, and our own Little Immigration Debate

Assembly Bill 817 passes, would allow permanent residents to serve as poll workers

by Brian Leubitz

Nothing gets the Right going like a good immigration debate. Nativism bubbles rapidly to the surface. Asm. Rob Bonta’s AB817, which passed yesterday, was such a debate. The bill would allow legal permanent residents of the state to act as poll workers.

Now, the job is admittedly not really that glamorous. It doesn’t pay well, it is very temporary, and isn’t really the most exciting job in the world. In fact, it turns out that many counties have problems getting enough poll workers. But, apparently people that have gone through the effort of legally immigrating, getting a green card, etc., have no possible reason to do this job:

“If somebody is not registered to vote and they aren’t a citizen and they can’t vote, then why would they even want to sit at the poll?” asked Assemblywoman Diane Harkey, R-Dana Point. “What could possibly entice them? Is this just another career path? I’m a bit confused.”(SacBee)

Unfortunately, Harkey doesn’t see the point of wanting to get involved in your new country. Of wanting to participate, even if you are not yet able to vote. In the world of some of these folks, poll workers are always just out to cheat the system and help commit voter fraud. Oh, by the way, did you the hear the one about voter fraud? Oh, right, because it really doesn’t exist.

But what are a few factsto get in the way of some good ol’ fashioned Nativism.

The bill now heads to the Governor.  

Arnold Schwarzenegger Talks Immigration Reform

Former Gov. has moved on from past Minuteman support

by Brian Leubitz

UPDATE: If you are in San Francisco, there is still time to make the rally for immigration reform. It starts at 3 at 24th and Mission, and marches at 3:30 to a rally at Civic Center at 5pm.

As the days of Arnold Schwarzengger’s administration continue to drift into the rearview mirror, sometimes one can let time put that hazy mist that makes everything look a little nicer right over the whole thing.  And a little sugarcoating can do that as well. Take for instance our former Governor campaigning for immigration reform last night:

As a teenager in his native Austria, Schwarzenegger saw the United States as the only place he could achieve his outsized dreams. The 11 million immigrants now in the country illegally are not so different from his younger self, he told an audience Tuesday at the USC think tank that bears his name.

“These are all very hardworking people. They have a dream. They want to make their dream a reality,” he said.

Then, Schwarzenegger turned the stage over to two U.S. senators at the epicenter of the immigration debate in Washington. The conversation turned to the practical matter of vote-getting. (LA Times)

Considering there is a lot of work left to do on immigration reform to get comprehensive reform through the Senate, all help is welcome. But, just so we are clear here, this is that same former bodybuilder in 2005:

“I think they’ve done a terrific job,” Schwarzenegger said of the “Minuteman” volunteers, who plan to expand to California in June. “They’ve cut down the crossing of illegal immigrants a huge percentage. So it just shows that it works when you go and make an effort and when you work hard. It’s a doable thing.”

The governor added that, “It’s just that our federal government is not doing their job. It’s a shame that the private citizen has to go in there and start patrolling our borders.” (LA Times)

The Minutemen were a group so extreme that George W Bush called them vigilantes in condemnation. But, whether it was just through lack of understanding, callousness, or actual support, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger praised them profusely. And the following year, during his reelection campaign, he reaffirmed that support.

However, time marches on, and Schwarzenegger does have an impressive story as an immigrant. It is a pity that he didn’t stress that story to improve the lives of other immigrants earlier, but better late than never.

Republicans Join Resolution Calling for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Senate Republican Leader joins Democratic Senators in Support for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

by Brian Leubitz

In what has undoubtedly been a very tough day, a bit of interesting news from Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar). He’s joining Senator Lou Correa’s (D-Santa Ana) SJR 8 supporting comprehensive immigration reform.

“The United States has been enriched by the strength and culture of immigrants who’ve come here from all over the world, and there’s no reason to believe that’s changed,” said Senator Huff.  “At every level, be it economic, social, or entrepreneurial, America benefits from immigration.  The status quo is hurting our state. California cannot afford to condemn another generation to living their lives in the shadows or denying them an opportunity to be fully functioning members of our great state.”

The resolution urges Congress and the President to take action that develops a path to legal status and recognizes that immigrants are a vital part of a variety of our nation’s industries including emerging technologies, medicine, agriculture, construction and hospitality.  The resolution also supports a reasonable and timely path to citizenship for immigrants already living and working in the United States, which should include comprehensive background checks, a demonstrated proficiency in English, payment of all current and back taxes, and creating an immigration policy that can respond to emerging domestic labor needs.

Not only is the resolution co-authored by Sen. Huff. He’s joined by Republican Senators Berryhill, Emmerson, Fuller, and Gaines. The resolution doesn’t go into any specifics, of course, but maybe, just maybe, we are making real progress on this critical issue of social justice.

Borderline Crazy: Prop. 32′s Anti-Immigrant Allies

This is an article written by Matthew Fleischer for Frying Pan News. Check Frying Pan News for regular in-depth coverage of Prop 32, its funders, and how it will impact working Californians.

In October of 2011, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the California Dream Act-which allows undocumented but high-achieving immigrant students to receive state funds to help pay for college. It was a monumental victory for tolerance and the culmination of a long fight-Arnold Schwarzenegger repeatedly vetoed similar measures during his tenure in the California governor’s office.

Come November 6, however, that fight could begin all over again if California’s Proposition 32 passes. The initiative will outlaw the use of automatic payroll deductions from union members and corporations for political purposes, crippling union political activity and empowering the measure’s billionaire backers to impose their political will on the state. While state unions passionately fought for the California Dream Act’s passage, they were opposed by politicians with ties to Prop. 32′s backers. Though they might not be rabid with anti-immigrant bile, Prop. 32′s moneymen have no problem funneling money to politicians who are.

Take for instance, Allan Mansoor, currently running for the State Assembly. He is an avowed enemy of the Dream Act, calling it “A slap in the face to people who followed the rules.” Mansoor has received major donations and support from Prop. 32 backers like Larry T. Smith and his powerful political action committee Family Action and the Lincoln Club of Orange County, as well as Howard Ahmanson.

When he served as mayor of the Orange County city of Costa Mesa in the early aughts, Mansoor launched a very public crackdown on Mexican lunch trucks-or, in his words “roach-coaches” blaring “La Cucaracha”-that were supposedly despoiling the suburban tranquility of his once peaceful town.

The move was blasted by the local press. Wrote OC Weekly food critic Gustavo Arellano: “Trust me on this one: As someone who has followed [these trucks] for nearly a decade, they’re not going into Costa Mesa . . . Mansoor is a bigot.”

The lunch truck crackdown, however, paled besides Mansoor’s next foray into immigration politics. In 2005, well before Arizona ever passed its anti-immigrant law SB 1070, Mansoor authorized Costa Mesa police to run immigration checks on individuals suspected of crimes, as well as on unlicensed drivers. He even proposed authorizing local police to investigate federal immigration crimes-creating a national news story over fear the rule would result in the racial profiling of Latinos.

The situation was ultimately resolved by installing a permanent Immigration and Customs Enforcement official in the local jail. But not before the American Civil Liberties Union sued Mansoor and Costa Mesa, after an immigrant rights advocate was arrested for speaking up against the plan at a city council meeting.

Belinda Escobosa Helzer, director and senior attorney of the ACLU’s Orange County office, which filed the suit, says that during the discovery phase of the lawsuit her group uncovered close ties between Mansoor and the anti-immigrant vigilante group the Minutemen, as well as its founder, Jim Gilchrist. Mansoor was even made an honorary member of the organization at one event.

“We believe the Minutemen to be a very dangerous group,” says Helzer. “Given the history of [Mansoor’s] activities in Costa Mesa, we would be concerned with any public servant who has those kinds of connections.”

Mansoor isn’t the only anti-immigrant zealot receiving material support from Prop. 32’s backers. San Bernardino Republican State Assemblyman Tim Donnelly recently received a $3,900 contribution from Howard Ahmanson’s political asset manager, Fieldstead and Company, for his reelection bid. Donnelly is probably best known for bringing a loaded .45-caliber Colt Mark IV on board a flight to Sacramento in January of this year. His excuse? Illegal immigrants were after him!

Donnelly is one of California’s most publicly anti-immigrant politicians. He’s the founder of his town’s chapter of the Minuteman-the xenophobic group that has tasked itself with patrolling the borders for undocumented immigrants. He was also the leading opponent of the Dream Act. Not only did he vote against the bill’s passage, Donnelly began collecting signatures to have the law repealed by ballot measure shortly after it was signed into law.

Fieldstead, incidentally, donated to Donnelly’s campaign well after his airplane adventure and anti-immigrant paranoia made national news. Ahmanson, rather disingenuously, claims that he himself isn’t anti-immigrant: “Most immigrants,” he told the Sacramento Bee in 2011, “are conservative on the social issues.”

Perhaps more hypocritical than disingenuous, however, is major Prop. 32 donor Jerry Perenchio. Even though he made much of his fortune as a co-owner of the Spanish-language TV network Univision, Perenchio has channeled $2.5 million in this election cycle to Republican candidates across America who could easily be described as anti-immigrant. The money was largely routed through Karl Rove’s American Crossroads Super PAC.

In Nevada alone, American Crossroads has supported Republican Senator Dean Heller, who vowed to alter the 14th Amendment to prevent those born in this country from automatically becoming citizens-in order to eliminate immigrant “anchor babies.” Earlier, in a 2011 special election, American Crossroads helped finance the campaign of Republican Mark Amodei, who compares the effects of illegal immigration to the devastation Hurricane Katrina wreaked on New Orleans.

Even before this election cycle, Perenchio donated money to such anti-immigrant California politicians as Santa Barbara Republican Tony Strickland-who voted against both the Dream Act and the Trust Act, the latter of which would have limited California law enforcement’s cooperation with federal officials in rounding up undocumented immigrants for deportation.

Strickland is a popular choice among Prop. 32 donors, receiving a rare direct donation to a California politician from Koch Industries-to the tune of $5,000.

Admittedly, most of Prop. 32’s backers aren’t aggressively anti-immigrant. At least not openly. They’re too savvy for that-after all, 38 percent of California is Latino. On a statewide level, pushing for an Arizona-type law would ultimately mean political suicide for California Republicans.

However, while political considerations may be keeping Prop. 32’s known backers from frothing at the mouth over immigration, it’s the unknown that is cause for concern. Earlier this week, the Prop. 32 campaign netted a massive $11 million donation from a mysterious non-profit calling itself Americans for Responsible Leadership. The organization is based in Arizona.

Little is known about ARL, and even less about its financial supporters. Our efforts to contact the group by press-time were unsuccessful.

Despite the scant details over the Arizona money’s origins, however, its infusion into the political process ultimately points to the greatest cause for concern over Prop. 32-the complete unknown. Even if California Republicans are too timid to launch an Arizona-type crackdown, that doesn’t mean shadowy out-of-state money from wealthy xenophobes couldn’t push for such a measure. As Perenchio’s national donations, as well as pro-Prop. 32 donations to candidates like Mansoor and Donnelly indicate, curbing anti-Latino rhetoric and stemming the tide of xenophobic legislation is nowhere on the Prop. 32 donors’ priority list.