Four council members are expected to introduce an agenda item at today’s Long Beach City Council meeting formally supporting two bills proposed by Democratic state lawmakers that, together, could help protect refugees and immigrants in light of President Donald Trump’s recent executive orders.
SB 54, the California Values Act, authored by Senate leader Kevin de Leon, prohibits the state and local governments from participating in deportations, or assisting federal agencies with making a case for deportations, according to a release from the office of Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez, who is co-sponsoring the agenda item.
The California Religious Freedom Act, SB 31, prohibits the state and local governments from establishing, or assisting federal agencies with establishing a registry on religion, ethnicity or countries of origin. That bill was presented by Sen. Ricardo Lara, whose district includes parts of Long Beach.
“Long Beach is one the most diverse cities in America, including the largest Cambodian population outside of Cambodia, many of whom came to this city as refugees,” said Gonzalez in a statement on Friday announcing the agenda item. “As the Vice Chair of the State Legislative Committee, I believe it is imperative that Long Beach shows the rest of the state and nation that we stand with our immigrant community and that we stand for religious freedom.”
The agenda item is co-sponsored by Vice Mayor Rex Richardson and Councilmembers Jeannine Pearce and Roberto Uranga.
Gonzalez stated that together, these bills will ensure that state and local resources are not spent on deportations, separating families, collecting information about an individual’s religious beliefs or affiliations and ultimately hurting the state’s economy.
“As the daughter of an immigrant, I believe it is imperative that we embrace our diversity and ensure that we are standing up for every resident of Long Beach,” Gonzalez said in an emailed newsletter on Friday. “According to the Federal Census data, one in every four residents in Long Beach identifies as foreign born.”
If approved, the agenda item will make Long Beach the first city in California to formally support these two bills.
“I think it is a wonderful thing that local and statewide elected officials should make an effort to stand with immigrants,” Long Beach librarian Ziba Zehdar-Gazdecki told the Post. “I am proud to be the daughter of two immigrants (one from Mexico and one from Iran) that both graduated from LBCC then CSULB.”
Long Beach librarian Ziba Zehdar-Gazdecki with her cousin in Iran in 2003. Her cousin was able to enter the U.S. two days before the Trump administration issued a travel ban. Zehdar-Gazdecki says she likes to take many photos when she visits Iran to show how safe a space it can be. "Trump's administration is not approaching national security correctly, as I have witnessed in the past, hate creates hate," she said. Photo courtesy of Zehdar-Gazdecki.
Zehdar-Gazdecki said her Persian cousin is currently living in Long Beach with her family after arriving at LAX from Iran via Turkey as a political refugee two days before Trump’s travel ban.
“I am so proud of my city putting this item on the agenda and I know my fellow residents in Long Beach will support this effort as well,” Zehdar-Gazdecki said. “I love that my parents chose to raise me in one of the most diverse cities in America and that is why I stay here to live and work and I hope to raise a family of my own here in the near future.”
Tarek Mohamed, chairman of the Long Beach Islamic Center, said he plans on attending the city council meeting tomorrow to show his support for the agenda item from a city that in turn supports the Muslim community.
“What [the council is] doing is absolutely something that is supported by the Muslim community and [...] is supported by the whole Long Beach community because you won't believe how much I get in support from Long Beach City and Long Beach citizens and faith communities and different communities,” Mohamed told the Post.
Mohamed said Trump’s recent executive order banning nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries has him in disbelief and is the only topic of conversation being discussed by members of the Islamic center. Mohamed said members of other communities have also expressed uncertainty in the future relations between the Trump administration and different immigrant groups.
“I was talking to the Jewish community and they don't believe that that guy [Trump] is still supporting Jewish communities like he's claiming,” Mohamed said. “Right now everybody says ‘who’s next if he gets away with the Muslim community?’”
Mohamed, who is from Egypt, said the political climate and uncertainty has even led his wife, an American citizen, and his young children to worry.
“Right now, my wife said ‘no way you can leave right now, if you leave you are probably not going to come back again,’ and my kids, 9 and 10 years old, they are asking ‘dad, do you think we need to move to Canada or Europe or go back to Middle East?” Mohamed said. “These questions never happened before. This shows you the amount of fear in the second generation.”
Locals show their support for Muslim American community at the Long Beach Islamic Center in November following Trump's presidential win. Photo by Stephanie Perez.
So far, in California, many feel that Trump is targeting Latinos and Muslims with his recent executive actions, and some state legislators have vowed not to aid such efforts.
In response to Trump’s executive actions on immigration signed on January 25, including calling for a wall between Mexico and the U.S., and the administration’s intent to withhold federal dollars from so-called sanctuary cities, de Leon announced the Senate’s intentions to fast-track certain bills that would make sure local agencies take no part in the implementation of the executive orders.
The bills include SB 54, 31 and 6, the Due Process for All Act authored by Sen. Ben Hueso, which would make sure those facing deportation have a due process and adequate legal representation, according to de Leon’s office. According to some immigration advocates, approving such legislation could transform “California into a de facto sanctuary state,” according to the Sacramento Bee.
“If the new President wants to wage a campaign of fear against innocent families, he can count us out,” de Leon said in a news conference. “We will not spend a single cent, nor lift a finger to aid his efforts.”
Many elected leaders throughout the state also spoke out against Trump when on January 27 he announced a travel ban on immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries, which led many to call the action a “Muslim ban.” Trump, however, defended the executive order days later, saying they were the same countries previously identified by the Obama administration as “sources of terror” and called the action a policy similar to what Obama did in 2011 when he banned visas for refugees from Iraq for six months.
The travel ban, which affects citizens of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen, has caused many to protest at international airports throughout the United States until a federal judge in Seattle ordered a national halt to enforcement of Trump’s controversial travel ban last Friday, according to the Seattle Times.
“U.S. District Judge James Robart ruled Friday afternoon in favor of Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who sued this week to invalidate key provisions of Trump’s executive order,” the Seattle publication wrote.
Following the weekend’s event, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced Monday that he had filed State of Washington v. Trump in the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, joining over a dozen other states and the District of Columbia in filing the amicus brief, according to his office.
“On behalf of the nearly 40 million people of California, I stand shoulder-to-shoulder with attorneys general in Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, and the District of Columbia, in filing an amicus brief in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to preserve the suspension of the Trump Administration's travel ban,” Becerra said in a statement. “The Administration's reckless dismissal of the Constitution threatens to rip apart California families, risks their economic well-being and defies centuries of our American tradition.”
As if tensions between California and the federal government don’t seem strained enough, de Leon issued a statement Monday in response to Trump’s comments on the state Senate’s fast-tracking plans, in which the President called California “out of control” and threatened to defund the state.
“Far from being out of control, California is creating jobs faster than any other state and immigrants are key to our economic prosperity,” de Leon said in a statement on Monday. “We are an engine for the country’s innovation and job growth and our state annually pays more in federal taxes than it gets back. Our economy is the sixth largest in the world and thirteen percent of the country’s GDP. So any pain the President wants to cause in California will ripple nationwide.”
“President Trump’s threat to weaponize federal funding is not only unconstitutional but emblematic of the cruelty he seeks to impose on our most vulnerable communities,” de Leon continued. “Taking such irresponsible action would hurt our senior citizens, children, farmers, and veterans – these are not political games, these are real lives the President is targeting.”
In 2015, California received some $367.8 billion in federal funding, according to the state Legislative Analyst's Office. However, in the same year, Californians paid the federal government a total of $405.8 billion in taxes, meaning residents of California paid a dollar in federal taxes for every 91 cents that comes back to the state. By contrast, so-called “taker states,” (states which get more in federal funding than their residents pay in federal taxes) receive as much as $3 (Mississippi and New Mexico) in funding per federal tax dollar paid.
De Leon concluded by stating he would continue working with Gov. Jerry Brown, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, Attorney General Becerra and the state’s congressional delegation in Washington to take all action necessary to protect the state's people and progress.
“We cannot allow him to just step over everything and make a new system, everything you have to go through the nation, approve through the Congress,” said Mohamed. “If this is in the favor of the United States, I’m the first one to approve, no problem, but we need to go through our democratic system and civil justice system.”