California cities, counties, school boards act to defend immigrants

February 9, 2017 12:45 PM CST By Marilyn Bechtel

OAKLAND, Calif. – This city could become the first in the nation to boycott firms helping to build the wall President Trump plans along the U.S.-Mexico border.

At the City Council meeting Feb. 2, Councilmember Abel Guillén introduced a resolution denouncing Trump’s executive order to build the wall, and “to the extent practicable,” calling on city departments to avoid entering new or amended contracts for goods or services from any company involved in building the wall.

If approved by the Council’s Rules and Legislation Committee, the measure is expected to come before the whole Council early next month. Estimates say upwards of a quarter of city residents are immigrants.

Earlier, on Jan. 31, the Oakland City Council voted to set up a $300,000 fund over two years, to support a “rapid response network” of 12 organizations to help families threatened with separation who can’t afford legal representation. Oakland is already a sanctuary city.

The surrounding county, Alameda County – also a sanctuary – followed suit a week later by earmarking $750,000 for its Social Services Committee to use to defend immigrants and refugees. The appropriation will be matched by an anonymous donor, giving the county $1.5 million for the purpose. Board President Wilma Chan noted that 30 percent of county residents were born outside the U.S., and a quarter of them remain undocumented.

The county’s decision followed the actions taken in late December by the county and city of Los Angeles to join with private foundations in establishing a $10 million fund to defend immigrants facing deportation. An estimated 815,000 undocumented people currently live in LA County.

Also this week, the state’s new Attorney General, Xavier Becerra, joined with attorneys-general from 15 other states in filing a “friend-of-the-court” brief with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, stating that the president’s temporary restrictions on travel from seven largely Muslim countries “has inflicted and continues to inflict harm on state colleges and universities around the country” that depend on faculty and students from other countries. All the attorneys-general signing the brief are Democrats, while seven come from states with Republican governors.

The Ninth Circuit Court is now considering Washington state and Minnesota’s challenge to President Trump’s executive order, with a ruling expected later this week.

In their brief, the attorneys-general charged that the president’s order “abruptly” barring many tourists and students from coming to the 15 states has “directly and immediately” cut revenues to state academic institutions and tax authorities.

Tech companies such as eBay, Apple and Google – all major players in California’s economy – are saying in their briefs that the order makes it harder for their companies to attract talent, increases their business costs, makes it harder for U.S. companies to compete internationally, and encourages international companies to build facilities and hire workers outside the U.S.

California school districts have also joined the fray. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson is calling on districts around the state to declare they are “safe havens” for immigrant children.

Torlakson emphasized that California schools welcome all students “regardless of their heritage, religion, ethnicity, background, disability or sexual orientation.” Calling diversity “California’s strength,” he added, “We do not just welcome diversity, we celebrate it.”

Among the districts already declaring their support for immigrant students are Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Sacramento, Stockton, San Francisco and Oakland, while San Jose, Riverside, Long Beach and Fremont are expected to submit resolutions to their boards for approval.

In a Feb. 5 interview with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, Trump reacted to these developments by threatening to defund “out-of-control” California. His charges were met with separate statements from the heads of the two houses of the state legislature, both pointing to the size of the state’s economy and emphasizing California’s vital role in the national economy.

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leόn, D-Los Angeles, called the threat “not only unconstitutional but emblematic of the cruelty he seeks to impose on our most vulnerable communities.” He noted that Californians contribute more to the national government than the state gets in return, and warned that sanctions on the state would have nationwide consequences.

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Paramount, called on other states to be similarly “out-of-control.”

Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat, is also on record saying the state “may be called upon to defend” legislation passed in recent years to protect immigrants, and “defend them we will.”

Meanwhile, emphasizing the importance of California’s longstanding cross-border relationships,
San Diego’s Mayor Kevin Faulconer, a Republican, held a joint news conference with Mayor Juan Manuel Gastélum of the Mexican city of Tijuana, on the other side of the country’s busiest border crossing.

While not mentioning the president’s statements, the two emphasized the importance of their cities’ longstanding collaboration, which involves many functions.

Tijuana’s mayor pointed to the need to “keep the momentum strong,” while Faulconer told how international trade and investment have brought over 110,000 jobs to his city.

The mayors are among many along the U.S.-Mexico border who have come together in recent days to emphasize the importance of their cross-border relationships.

Via People’s World

Defying Trump’s threats, cities, states move to lock in sanctuary status

February 3, 2017 9:48 AM CST By Marilyn Bechtel

San Francisco is confirming its long-time commitment as a sanctuary city, in defiance of President Trump’s ballooning anti-immigrant actions. In addition, lawmakers in other cities including Los Angeles and New York City, as well as the states of California and Maryland, are taking steps to ensure that immigrants can live without fear of being detained or deported.

Suit filed in federal court

On Jan. 31, San Francisco’s City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed a suit in federal court charging the administration is violating state’s rights by declaring that cities and counties upholding their sanctuary status and refusing to cooperate with federal immigration authorities will lose federal funding.

Herrera was joined at a City Hall news conference by Mayor Ed Lee, San Francisco Supervisor Hillary Ronen, and deputy city attorneys.

Calling the president’s executive order “unconstitutional” and “un-American,” the city attorney told journalists, “It is necessary to defend the people of this city, this state and this country from the wild overreach of a president whose words and actions have thus far shown little respect for our Constitution or the rule of law.”

Saying “the fabric of our communities and billions of dollars are at stake,” Herrera charged that Trump fails to understand the Constitution’s limits on executive powers.

Mayor Lee told the media that his city is “ready to fight to keep our city safe, and today is a prime example.” He added, “Strong cities like San Francisco must continue to push the nation forward and remind America that we are a city that fights for what is right.”

The city’s lawsuit argues that the president’s executive order violates states’ rights as set forth in the Constitution’s 10th Amendment, and claims that “the Executive Branch may not commandeer state and local officials to enforce federal law.”

The 10th Amendment – part of the Bill of Rights – states that the federal government only possesses those powers delegated to it by the Constitution, and all remaining powers are reserved for the states or the people. It was ratified in 1791.

As a sanctuary city, San Francisco bars local law enforcement from cooperating with detention requests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and limits when officers can tell ICE about people being released from jail. The suit emphasized, however, that the city continues to honor federal criminal warrants.

San Francisco is one of some 400 sanctuary cities and counties in the U.S., and could lose over $1.2 billion a year in federal funding, much of which goes to programs serving poorer residents. Trump didn’t make clear which cities and counties are targeted or what funding is threatened.

On Jan. 30, Mayor Lee joined Police Chief William Scott and Sheriff Vicki Hennessy in sending a letter to the Department of Homeland Security saying San Francisco public safety agencies will not enforce federal immigration law and that the city will not comply with Trump’s demands that state and local law enforcement perform as immigration officers.

The three said the city takes this position “in the interest of public safety,” because community policing can only be effective when people in the community trust and are willing to cooperate with police. They said San Francisco would “continue to honor valid criminal warrants and court orders as we always have.”

“Our law-abiding residents are safer when they can report crimes, get immunizations, and enroll their children in public school,” the letter said. “If cities acquiesce to your demands to carry out immigration enforcement, we lose the trust of our communities.”

San Francisco was joined by Los Angeles in challenging the administration’s orders.

Speaking on CNN Jan. 26, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti called the federal demands “both unconstitutional and un-American.” To back up his argument, Garcetti cited the Supreme Court’s ruling that the Obama administration couldn’t force states to expand Medicaid against their will.

Also in Los Angeles, U.S. District Judge Andre Birotte Jr. last week “enjoined and restrained” the federal government from enforcing Trump’s order suspending immigration from seven mostly Muslim countries. His ruling went beyond the 28 would-be immigrants from Yemen named in the lawsuit, to include banning the government from denying entry to anyone coming from the seven countries and holding a valid visa.

California and Maryland could become first “sanctuary states”

Meanwhile, the CA state legislature was issuing challenges of its own.

State Senate Bill 54, introduced in December by Senate President pro tem Kevin de Leόn, D-Los Angeles, passed its first committee test this week. The measure would bar local and state law enforcement from collecting information about a person’s immigration status, and from holding anyone for federal agents without a judicial warrant.

The bill must be okayed by two more committees before reaching the Senate floor. There, its chances for passage are good, because both houses of the state legislature now have Democratic supermajorities. If passed by a two-thirds majority and signed by Democratic Governor Jerry Brown, it would become effective at once, since it has been designated an “urgency” bill.

Lawmakers in the state of Maryland, led by state Sen. Victor Ramirez, have also introduced a similar bill that would ban local law enforcement from arresting or detaining anyone solely on the basis of a request from federal immigration authorities. It would also stop police, schools and prison officials from investigating the immigration status of those in their custody.

As prominent activist Daniel Altschuler and attorney Peter Markowitz wrote in a column in The Nation in December: “While the Trump administration tries to criminalize immigrants and devastate their families, progressives must play strong defense—in particular, by drawing a bright line between local and state government and ICE’s efforts to devastate communities.”

Via People’s World