California lawmakers aim to protect immigrants from Trump

AP News
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Posted: Dec 05, 2016 7:48 PM
California lawmakers aim to protect immigrants from Trump

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California lawmakers on Monday urged President-elect Donald Trump to refrain from pursuing mass deportations and introduced urgent legislation to fund immigration lawyers and help public defenders protect the state's immigrants.

Democratic lawmakers also passed resolutions in both chambers urging the incoming administration to uphold a program for hundreds of thousands of young immigrants in the country illegally, despite intense protests from some Republicans.

State Sen. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, introduced a bill to fund lawyers for immigrants in deportation proceedings, while Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, proposed helping public defenders assess the immigration consequences of criminal convictions.

Both measures were marked urgent and aim to protect immigrants in California — which has more than 10 million foreign-born residents — from Trump's campaign promises of tougher immigration enforcement.

"This is a salvo, if you will, across the board to make it very clear that these are the values of California," Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, a Democrat from Los Angeles, told reporters.

Democratic lawmakers, who hold supermajorities in both chambers, proposed the measures following a heated election year where Trump made border enforcement a central point of his campaign and had harsh rhetoric for Mexican immigrants and Muslims.

On the first day of the new legislative session — which is typically reserved for congratulatory handshakes and bipartisan photo-ops — debate was heated over Democrats' resolutions urging Trump to continue to issue work permits to young immigrants brought to the country as children. More than 740,000 young people are covered by the program today.

Sen. John Moorlach, a Republican from Costa Mesa, said he thought it was the wrong approach for California to take such an antagonistic tone with a president who is not even inaugurated yet.

"I'm not comfortable with saying we will fight, although I understand it. I think we ought to try to work with this administration," he said. "We should be collaborative. I don't think defiance is the right approach."

De Leon called the resolution necessary and urgent as children are afraid their parents will be deported.

Gov. Jerry Brown declined to take a position Monday on the immigration legislation being introduced. But he said he'll "look very carefully at whatever they propose."

"I have signed some similar measures in the past, at least through the budget," he told reporters in his office. "I am very supportive of the people of California and those who have come here more recently, so I'll take a good look at whatever they present."

About 2.4 million immigrants in California lack legal status, according to estimates by the Washington-based Pew Research Center.

The two immigration bills introduced Monday could cost the state between $10 million and $80 million, according to proponents.

Immigrant advocates said other bills are also being considered to further limit federal immigration enforcement in California and protect immigrants' information in state databases.

In recent years, California has passed a series of measures to assist and protect immigrants in the country illegally, for example, limiting the cases when local law enforcement can turn over immigrant arrestees for deportation.

California offers state-subsidized health care to children from low-income families who are in the country illegally and issues driver's licenses regardless of legal status.

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Taxin reported from Santa Ana, California. Associated Press writers Juliet Williams in Sacramento contributed to this report.