California Legislature Takes Immediate Action to Protect Immigrant Communities
SACRAMENTO – During today’s start of the 2017-2018 legislative session, the California State Assembly and California State Senate joined together to take immediate action that could inoculate the potential impact of President-elect Donald Trump’s stated plans to deport up to 3 million undocumented residents.
Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) and Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) led their respective chambers to adopt identical resolutions that ask the President-elect not to employ a mass-deportation strategy. New bills were also introduced to strengthen due process rights and protections for undocumented residents should President-elect Trump pursue overly aggressive immigration enforcement actions.
SB 6 by Senator Ben Hueso (D-San Diego) would create a state program to fund legal representation for those facing deportation. AB 3 by Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) would create state-funded regional centers to train defense attorneys and public defender’s offices on immigration law and the consequences of criminal convictions.
At a press conference Monday to announce the bills, Senator Hueso, Vice-Chair of the Latino Legislative Caucus, said the measures “send a clear message to undocumented Californians that we won’t turn our backs on them. We will do everything in our power to protect them from unjustified deportation. In California we embrace people of all walks of life who work hard and contribute to our economy and that won’t change now.”
Added Assemblymember Bonta, Chair of the Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus: “Immigration is critical for keeping alive the American dream – a dream that the United States is the land of opportunity for people from all over the world. I’m proud to support a package of bills that protect California’s immigrant population and challenge our society to end policies of profiling and discrimination based on race or religion.”
The resolutions passed by the Assembly, HR 4 and the Senate, SR 7, asked President-elect Trump to abandon his stated plan to deport millions of undocumented immigrants.
“Immigrants are vital to many of California’s industries such as technology, health care, agriculture, construction, hospitality, and domestic services,” the resolutions state. “Immigrants also represent a large percentage of small business owners and create economy prosperity and needed jobs for everyone.”
Undocumented workers make up approximately one-tenth of California’s workforce, contribute $130 billion in the state’s gross domestic product and pay billions in state and local taxes, the resolutions state.
“Immigrants are a part of California’s history, our culture, and our society,” said Speaker Rendon. “They pay taxes, sometimes more than billionaires, and they help drive the engine that makes California the 6th largest economy in the world. With this package of legislation we are telling the next Administration and Congress: if you want to get to them, you have to go through us.”
Senate Leader de León warned that President-elect Trump has previously hailed an Eisenhower-era mass deportation program known as “Operation Wetback” and that California would not return to the inhumane immigration policies of the 1950s.
“It is neither humane nor wise to ignore the many contributions of this community to our economy and culture,” de León said. “California celebrates diversity. We don’t deport it.”
Immigrant rights advocates are praising Monday’s legislative action.
"We applaud and stand with California's legislative leadership in declaring proudly and unequivocally that California will continue to be a beacon of hope, inclusion, and justice for immigrant communities,” said Stewart Kwoh, President and Executive Director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Los Angeles. “With the resolution and legislative proposals introduced today in the state legislature, California is sending a message to president-elect Trump that we vigorously oppose his xenophobic and bigoted anti-immigrant agenda and we will do everything in our power to defend and protect immigrants."
Carmen Iguina, staff attorney with the ACLU of Southern California, said California must stand by its “its most cherished values of fairness and due process” and the many immigrants that call California their home. For immigrants facing deportation, having an attorney could mean the difference between being able to stay in the country and being torn from family, community, and the life they have built here.”
"MALDEF supports these bills as critical steps toward protecting those hundreds of thousands of immigrants who daily contribute to the growth, prosperity, and future success of the state of California," said Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF president and general counsel. "The proposals can help to prevent the disruption of families, communities, and workplaces caused by enforcement activities that fail to recognize the deep and damaging flaws in our current federal immigration laws."
Added Rebecca DeLaRosa, Interim Executive Director of Latino Coalition for a Healthy California: “With the recent increase in hate crime and cloud of uncertainty our community faces, Latino Coalition for a Healthy California stands in strong support with our California leaders to push for an inclusive policy agenda that protects everyone’s human right to a healthy life with their family and loved ones. No one should live in fear because of who they are. This is the 21st century.”
The Council on American Islamic Relations also supports the measures, said its Legislative and Government Relations Coordinator Yannina Casillas: “The California Muslim community sees the proposed measures as concrete steps necessary to ensure that the rights of undocumented immigrants and vulnerable immigrant communities are protected.”