Long Beach residents attended a rally September 6 to call on the city to institute a sanctuary city bill to protect undocumented neighbors in in the city. Photos: Jason Ruiz
Over 200 community members gathered at Harvey Milk Park Wednesday night to demand that Mayor Robert Garcia take the steps necessary to make Long Beach a sanctuary city in the wake of President Donald Trump’s announcement this week that he would discontinue an Obama-era program that protected certain immigrants from deportation.
The rally at Harvey Milk Park was hosted by a coalition of community groups including May Day Long Beach, the Long Beach Immigrants Rights Coalition, the Filipino Migrant Center, the Democratic Socialists of America Long Beach chapter and parts of the city’s faith community.
They called on Mayor Robert Garcia and the city council to act immediately on protecting immigrants who call the city home. While some members of the coalition have been staging similar events for the past several months, the push for a sanctuary city has ratcheted up with this week’s announcement from the White House that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) would be discontinued.
The DACA program was enacted in 2012 via executive order by former President of the United States Barack Obama and it extended a lifeline of sorts to undocumented immigrants who were brought here as children. The program allowed those who were in school or had already completed school and did not have a criminal record to apply for DACA protections that enabled them to legally work, buy a home and even join the military. Those protections were renewable every two years.
With Attorney General Jeff Session’s announcement this week that the president has directed him to halt the program while he provides Congress a six-month window to sort out a legislative answer to immigration reform, protesters who have been pressing the city to act for months again took to the streets.
“You guys heard Sessions, you guys heard what’s coming from the administration. They’re trying to separate communities of color, they’re trying to pit us against each other but we’re not going to let them,” said Nancy Fausto, an associate pastor at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Long Beach who spoke at the rally. “Right now, at this very moment I want us to be really loud and I want Mayor Garcia to know that we are here and we want him to declare Long Beach a sanctuary city.”
Postcards handed out to the crowd were pre-filled out and addressed to city hall and laid out the community's demands for sanctuary protections.
The mayor, who has voiced support for DACA “Dreamers” on social media, said last week during a Twitter AMA that he will support a statewide law once it receives a final vote from state legislators. That vote is expected to happen by mid-September and Garcia said city leaders are urging Governor Jerry Brown to sign it as passed.
“After Sept 15 and we know exact language, council should take up issue and reaffirm local support & create companion local policy to address gaps in the law,” Garcia tweeted last week. “If council passes more protections I will sign.”
Garcia, whose family was amnestied by President Ronald Reagan in the late 1980s, cannot declare the city a sanctuary unilaterally. The council must agendize and vote on a local ordinance before the mayor can sign it.
The “Sanctuary State” bill, also known as the California Values Act, is comprised of Senate Bills 54 and 31 and would prohibit cities from participating in deportations or assisting the feds in making cases for deportations as well as barring religious or ethnic registries. The bills were introduced by California State Senate Leader Kevin De Leon (SB-54) and by State Senator Ricardo Lara (SB-31) in the wake of President Trump’s election.
While on the campaign trail Trump promised to rescind the executive order on DACA “on day one” but waited nearly nine months into his first term to act on it. He tweeted again Tuesday saying he will “revisit this issue” if Congress is unable to act in the six-month timeframe Sessions announced earlier in the week adding another layer of ambiguity and unease for those protected under the law.
Congress now has 6 months to legalize DACA (something the Obama Administration was unable to do). If they can't, I will revisit this issue!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 6, 2017
The fear of being deported is nothing new for immigrants under Trump’s presidency as sweeps by federal agents have increased under the new administration. But Dreamers being potentially swept up into deportation efforts is something new as the president continues to vacillate on the issue.
Alejandra Campos, a student at Cal State Long Beach, said that she tried to make Tuesday like any other day as she went to class, listened to lectures and held her head up high despite knowing that her DACA protections had just been pulled out from under her.
Campos said it’s tough to explain to her younger sisters what exactly is happening on the political landscape and how that might affect her or her parents, but she’s tried to remain strong like her mother, someone who's always lived in this country without documentation.
“I feel like at the end of the day we’re all here for one reason, whatever the case may be,” Campos said. “If our parents fled violence, war, or whatever, but we owe it to them to keep moving forward and to keep being strong. I know that at the end of the day that we’ll get through it.”
Yuritza Sanchez, a 27-year-old senior at California State University Dominguez Hills, stood with her son at her side as she shared her story with the crowd gathered on the Promenade.
Sanchez said it’s been hard to deal with the president’s campaign rhetoric-fueled stigma that immigrants have been tagged with but showed the same resolve as Campos in saying that she will go on, with or without DACA.
“I know that no matter what happens I’m going to be here and I’m going to stay here and I have my community and friends that support me and my family,” Sanchez said. “A lot of people have shown me a lot of support and I’m still going to go to school and still going to get my degree and nothing is going to stop me.”
The council’s appetite for a local ordinance could go a long way toward shoring up uncertainties for Dreamers. That could depend on the White House’s resolve to follow through on the president’s warnings to cities that defy his immigration laws.
Trump has threatened to defund sanctuary cities, stripping them of vital federal funding that municipalities rely on to bolster their public safety networks, if they do not comply with his order to assist federal agencies like Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to identify and deport persons who are living in the country illegally.
The 10th Amendment to the Constitution has been interpreted by the United States Supreme Court as a prohibition on the president using federal dollars, and the threat of them drying up, as a means to get cities to comply with federal law.
However, the idea that Trump might have the ability to pull funding led some council members from voicing reservations in supporting the statewide sanctuary bill when it was discussed in early February.
The council voted 7-0 (Mungo and Andrews were absent) to support the bill, but left itself an out in which it could pull its support if the final legislation veered off course from what the council intended to support with its vote earlier this year.
The Pew Research Center estimates that there are some 800,000 people in the country who are covered under DACA with the overwhelming majority of those people living in two states: California and Texas. That figure does not include those who are eligible but did not register for DACA, a figure estimated to drive the total number up over one million.
Over a quarter of those Dreamers (222,795) live in the Golden State and if they suddenly became ineligible to work the economic consequences could be dire.
Last week, Fortune estimated that Trump’s winding down of DACA could cost the country about 700,000 jobs and billions of dollars in lost economic input as Dreamers either lose their employment status or are no longer legally able to seek out jobs. The figures were based on a report put out by the Center for American Progress.
CNN reported Tuesday that the deportation of taxpayers would also hurt the United States’ pocketbook, to the tune of $60 billion in lost tax revenue and $280 billion in economic growth over the next decade.