California labor and allies fight Trump immigration lawsuit

March 8, 201812:48 PM CDT BY MARILYN BECHTEL

California’s elected officials, and immigrant rights, civil rights and labor organizations, are issuing powerful challenges to the lawsuit filed March 6 by the Trump administration, claiming last year’s “sanctuary state” laws violate the U.S. Constitution and interfere with enforcement of federal immigration laws.

The suit takes aim at three California laws passed last year, limiting cooperation with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) by state and local law enforcement and employers, and barring cities and counties from making new contracts to hold undocumented people solely over immigration violations.

The legal action also names California Governor Jerry Brown and the state Attorney General Xavier Becerra – both Democrats – as defendants. Observers predict the legal action will ultimately reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

The U.S. Department of Justice contends the Constitution gives the federal government control over enforcement of immigration laws and says California’s laws limiting those efforts can pose a threat in and beyond California.

The day after the suit was filed, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions came to California’s capital city, Sacramento, to address the California Peace Officers Association. Hundreds of protesters massed outside the downtown hotel where the meeting took place.

Gov. Brown quickly slammed the administration’s lawsuit with a sardonic retort: “At a time of unprecedented political turmoil, Jeff Sessions has come to California to further divide and polarize America. Jeff, these political stunts may be the norm in Washington, but they don’t work here. SAD!!!”

At a press conference after Sessions’ speech, Brown and Becerra upheld the legality of the challenged laws.

Brown said the lawsuit threatens innocent people, and “is about dividing America.” He called on Sessions to apologize to Californians “for trying to insert discord and division, and I might add dysfunctionality, in a state that’s really working.”

The governor said he continues to be willing to cooperate with federal officials on immigration enforcement efforts that target those who commit serious or violent crimes.

Becerra said that under the U.S. Constitution’s 10th Amendment, California has the right to decline participation in immigration enforcement. “California is in the business of public safety,” he said. “We’re not in the business of deportation.”

State Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, who last year introduced the measure limiting state and local law enforcement cooperation with ICE, held a press conference with two other Democratic legislators who introduced immigrant rights measures, state Senator Ricardo Lara of Bell Gardens and Assemblymember David Chiu from San Francisco. All three are immigrants or sons of immigrants.

Also participating was Eric Holder, U.S. Attorney General under President Obama, whose law firm is now under retainer with the state Senate.

De León emphasized California’s right to “prioritize its limited resources in areas of state concern,” including how its public safety funds are spent. “If it galls the U.S. Attorney General and the President that we won’t help enforce their racist and xenophobic immigration policies, well, we say, Tough! We embrace the cultural gifts immigrants bestow on us, and their diversity. They are the backbone of our economy. And we will do everything in our legal power to protect them.”

Holder, who seeks to file an amicus brief regarding the federal lawsuit, called the suit “a political and unconstitutional attack” on California’s rights, since the U.S. Supreme Court has made it clear states can’t be forced to divert their resources to help the federal government enforce federal law. “The Trump administration can pursue its self-defeating and misguided immigration policies, if that’s what it wants to do, but it cannot insist that the State of California use its money and its resources to help in that effort.”

Lara introduced the legislation blocking expansion of California’s immigrant detention facilities and barring new or extended contracts with for-profit companies for the facilities. His bill also insists on decent treatment for people held there. “Let’s not be fooled – this is jail,” he said. “People are going without care, without access to an attorney … These are rights that ICE itself has recommended should be implemented in these detention centers.”

Chiu’s legislation says employers must require proper court documents before letting immigration agents enter a workplace or obtain workers’ records and must inform workers of an impending raid. In California, he said, many workers lack immigration papers because Congress has not passed comprehensive immigration reform. He charged that with large portions of the state’s farm, restaurant and construction workers in that situation, the federal administration’s goal “is to disrupt the world’s sixth largest economy.”

Immigrant and civil rights groups were also quick to weigh in.

The ICE Out of California Coalition of over 20 organizations called the suit “an attack on our nation’s values of equality and compassion … Now is the time for all Californians to stand up to federal abuses of power and blatant attempts at political retaliation.”

Noting that the state is home to 2.6 million undocumented immigrants, over 400,000 of whom are Asian American, Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus said, “We will do everything in our power to defend against this hateful targeting of our immigrant communities.”

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. Ben Margot | AP

Labor leaders were quick to comment, too. California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski called Sessions’ attacks on hardworking immigrants an attempt “to score political points for a morally bankrupt administration,” while Los Angeles County Labor Federation President Rusty Hicks declared, “The irony! For decades, Donald Trump has used the courts as a financial sanctuary for his bankrupt businesses. Now he wans to use the courts against California for daring to protect innocent people from his wanton abuse of power. The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor welcomes the chance to join in the defense of our rights as Californians.”

In his speech before the California Peace Officers Association, Jeff Sessions continued his attacks on Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, who last month warned city residents of impending ICE sweeps in northern California.

To Sessions’ “How dare you needlessly endanger the lives of law enforcement just to promote your radical open borders agenda,” Schaaf replied, “How dare you distract the American people from a failed immigration system that tears apart decent families and forces the workers that our economy depends on to harvest our crops, deliver our services, and build our cities to live in fear and work under oppressed conditions. How dare you distort the reality about declining violent crime rates in a diverse, sanctuary city like Oakland to advance a racist agenda.”

Via People’s World 

Port of Oakland approves “groundbreaking” Good Jobs Policy for new warehousing complex

November 14, 20179:13 AM CDT BY MARILYN BECHTEL

OAKLAND, Calif. – Labor and community leaders and activists gathered here Nov. 9 to celebrate, as the Port of Oakland Board of Commissioners unanimously gave initial approval to a “groundbreaking” Good Jobs Policy for its new state-of-the-art warehousing complex, on public land once occupied by the now-decommissioned Oakland Army Base. A final vote is set for Nov. 30.

Industrial real estate developer CenterPoint Properties is expected to start construction early next year on a 440,000 square foot logistics center on the Port’s part of the former base. In 2012, the City of Oakland reached agreement for development of its portion.

The pact with the Port is even stronger than the earlier agreement with the City, rally participants said.

The new agreement, worked out during 20 months of talks between the Port Board, the Revive Oakland! and OaklandWORKS coalitions and CenterPoint, requires living wages, local hire including disadvantaged workers, protections for subcontracted workers, and a Ban-the-Box policy said to be one of the country’s strongest.

At a rally before the Port Board meeting, Revive Oakland Coalition director Jahmese Myres told the assembled union, community and faith leaders, “What is making us so excited about this new policy is how we are transforming the warehouse industry.”

Myres said the agreement will help to transform what has been a “low-road industry that exploits its workers, is unstable and often unsafe.” She said the pact, agreed at a time when the Trump Administration is trying to exploit workers and communities and further racial and economic inequality, “will have reverberations across this city, the region, the state and the country.”

E.J. Pavia of the Urban Peace Movement and John Jones III of Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice both emphasized the importance of the strong ban-the-box provisions.

Pavia cited the issues his formerly incarcerated brother faced in finding a job and trying to put his life back together. “My brother’s life would have been completely different if the policies we just won had been around 17 years ago,” he said. “Moving forward, this new policy is a racial justice victory” for black and brown communities “experiencing the brunt of job discrimination and chronic unemployment.”

Jones, himself formerly incarcerated, spoke of his inability to find a job over an 18-month period after he returned home, “because I had to mark a box. How does that contribute to public safety?” With the new pact, he said, “solutions are here, we’ve done it!”

Agustin Ramirez, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union’s lead organizer for Northern California, emphasized the importance of “good paying, family sustaining, ILWU union jobs.” Saying the ILWU “has divisions all these workers can fit into,” Ramirez called attention to the Port of Oakland’s position as the country’s fifth largest port for containers. “As we know,” he said, “warehousing is the key component” of the logistic changes now happening in the industry.

All speakers emphasized the importance of monitoring how the agreement is carried out going forward, and its importance for enabling workers to stay in their communities and not be displaced by the area’s soaring housing costs.

The agreement’s provisions include:

  • Wall-to-wall living wage jobs at a minimum of $13.32 per hour with benefits, and $15.31 without benefits, plus annual cost-of-living increases.
  • Fifty percent local hire within the Port’s Local Impact Area, including the cities of Oakland, Emeryville, San Leandro and Alameda, with priority hiring for Oakland’s “flatlands” zip codes, to make sure residents there can have resources to stay in their homes.
  • Twenty-five percent hiring of workers experiencing barriers to employment including single parents, former foster youth, veterans, chronically unemployed, formerly incarcerated, or recipients of public benefits, so that those who are struggling and most often left out of jobs can gain access.
  • One of the country’s strongest “Ban-the-Box” policies to end discrimination against formerly incarcerated workers. This will significantly narrow the scope of background checks and assure transparency before and after allowable checks are done.
  • Equal protection for subcontracted workers, and limits on temporary workers.
  • Priority to job-seekers coming from the West Oakland Job Resource Center, established as a part of the City of Oakland’s 2012 agreement with the Port.
  • Community enforcement through an oversight body and a legally-binding Cooperation Agreement between the Port of Oakland and the community.

Environmental concerns urgently need further discussion, Earth Justice’ Adenike Adeyeye told the Board during the public comment portion of the meeting. She called attention to the need to significantly cut emissions that are contributing to major health problems experienced by nearby West Oakland residents, as freight and warehousing operations grow.

Earth Justice is working with other organizations including the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, to assure that those issues are thoroughly addressed.

“We know some environmental issues remain, and we believe this is not an either-or but a both-and,” Myers told the Board. “We need good jobs and healthy communities … communities of color are often at the center of both economic and environmental injustice. We are committed to continuing to work with the port to make sure environmental issues are addressed.”

Via People’s World