With President-elect Donald Trump ready to take office next month, California lawmakers are already gearing up for some of the tough battles they expect to fight.
On Monday, Dec. 5 after swearing in a new crop of lawmakers, many made their voices clear; that a Trump presidency will not have a say in how California conducts business.
“Californians may accept the lawfulness of the November election, but millions of us do not accept the sentiment delivered by this election,” said Anthony Rendón, D-Paramount who was elected Speaker of the Assembly for the 2017-2018 Legislative Session with a 55 to 25 vote in favor.
“It is up to us to pass policies that would firewall Californians- and what we believe- from the cynical, short sighted, and reactionary agenda that is rising in the wake of this election. White nationalists and anti-Semites have no business working in the White House.”
After delivering a speech that boasted the progressive agenda California has been proudly able to carry forward, he told invited guests and the legislature that Californians do not healing in the aftermath of the presidential election. They need to fight.
“We need to fight to protect our people and their rights. We need to fight to protect our economy and its growth,” said Rendón.
On the Assembly floor, lawmakers took House Resolution 4 (HR 4) for a debate. The House Resolution is a measure that calls on Congress to protect the rights of all immigrants. It specifically “condemns in the strongest terms- bigoted, racist or misinformed descriptions of the immigrant community” and urges the President-elect not to pursue “mass deportation strategies that needlessly tear families apart to target immigrants for deportation based on value and unjustified criteria.”
The bill, co-authored by Rendón, also states that the Assembly “implores the President-elect to reject any expansion of the ‘expedited removal’ process that operates without administrative oversight and robs individuals of due process.”
The resolution further urges President-elect Donald Trump to continue President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), which grants ‘Dreamers’ - people who were brought into the country as children by their parents- a temporary reprieve from deportation.
It is estimated that more than 700,000 Dreamers have benefitted from DACA across the country and California is home to more foreign-born residents than any other state in the American union. Further, about one-tenth of California’s work force is undocumented and they contribute $130 billion in the state’s gross domestic product and pay billions of dollars in state and local taxes.
Given these statistics, the resolution points out that any kind of large-scale round-up of undocumented immigrants would have a dire impact on social and welfare services in California, as well as increased economic competition among low-skilled workers, national security concerns and other issues.
Some lawmakers on the Assembly floor were angry the measure was brought forth for debate on the first day of the 2017-2018 legislative session.
“It is hypocritical to think that our next president, who hasn’t even taken office, will be a threat to immigrants when President Barack Obama, the Democratic leader of the free world has deported more undocumented immigrants in the history of America,” said Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez, R- Lake Elsinore.
The Assemblywoman went on to defend Trump by stating he has never made any mention of “internment camps” or expressed any rhetoric that would explicitly punish immigrants. The only promise Trump has made thus far since being elected President is to “deport undocumented immigrants who have a criminal record,” she said.
“First of all, we have to learn to distinguish two things. There are political campaigns and then there is governance. We all need to recognize that that criminal element when it comes to immigration is important because it is exactly what is terrorizing our immigrant communities,” said Melendez.
She went on to tell her colleagues across the aisle to “stop throwing grenades on the first day of legislative session” and accused Rendón and Assembly Democrats for bringing HR 4 to the floor for discussion during a day that was supposed to be celebratory in nature for the friends, families and colleagues of the newly-elected lawmakers.
Democrats were quick to respond.
Assembly member Tony Thurmond, D-Richmond joined 56 other State Assembly members in supporting HR 4 including two Republicans: Brian Maienschein of San Diego and Catharine Baker of San Ramon. Fourteen of them did not support the resolution.
“Racial and ethnic discrimination hurts our residents and undermines our prosperity. California stands unified in rejecting the politics of hatred and exclusion,” he said. “We all know that words matter and when you utter them they have force. And they have great force when those words come from the person who stands to be the next leader of the free world.”
On the Senate Floor, Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León introduced an identical bill, Senate Resolution 7 (SR 7) to protect all immigrants.
“Immigrants are vital to many of California’s industries such as technology, health care, agriculture, construction, hospitality, and domestic services,” the resolution states. “Immigrants also represent a large percentage of small business owners and create economic prosperity and needed jobs for everyone.”
The Senate Leader 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 1950’s.
“It is neither humane nor wise to ignore the many contributions of this community to our economy and culture,” said De León. “California celebrates diversity. We don’t deport it.”
In the Senate, 27 voted for the resolution, 3 voted against it and 10 abstained.
No sooner did both sessions adjourn when a group of California lawmakers from both the Senate and the Assembly gathered in the Governors Press Room to introduce a package of bills that would protect the approximately 2.3 million undocumented immigrants living in California.
In them, California officials are proposing to further restrict the ability of the federal government to detain and deport undocumented immigrants under President-elect Donald Trump.
Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León announced a bill that would prohibit state and local law enforcement, including school police and security departments from using resources for immigration enforcement.
Senate Bill 54 is intended to create “safe zones” at hospitals, courthouses and public schools where immigrant enforcement would be banned, and require state agencies to update their confidentiality policies so that information on individuals’ immigration status is not shared for enforcement purposes.
“To the millions of undocumented residents pursuing and contributing to the California Dream, the State of California will be your wall of justice should the incoming Administration adopt an inhumane and over-reaching mass-deportation policy,” said De León. “We will not stand by and let the federal government use our state and local agencies to separate mothers from their children.”
Senator Ben Hueso, D-San Diego and Chair of the powerful California Latino Legislative Caucus introduced SB 6, the “Due Process For All Act” which would create a state program to fund legal representation for those facing deportation.
According to a face sheet from Hueso’s office, 68 percent of those held in immigration detention facilities do not have legal representation, and detainees who have lawyers are more than five times more likely to succeed in challenging their deportation.
“This and all of the other measures we are introducing 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 and contribute to the economy and that won’t change now.”
Assembly member Rob Bonta, D-Oakland and Chair of the Asian-Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus introduced AB 3, a measure that would create state-funded regional centers to train defense attorneys and public defender’s offices on immigration law and the consequences of criminal convictions.
“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,” said Bonta. “I am proud to support a package of bills that protect California’s immigration population and challenge our society to end policies of profiling and discrimination based on race or religion.”
Speaker Rendón said California must be cautious and cannot take chances with President-elect Donald Trump. Instead, it must best prepare for what is to come in the next four years with a careful eye on the decisions of him and his administration.
“The President-elect has promised that on day one he would “tackle” the immigration issue. So, this is our day one,” said Rendón. “In my district and that of many others, there are people who are scared and petrified- about their future, their families and leaving the country they contribute to and call home. So, we have to be prepared and it is our duty to provide those people with some consolation.”