August 23, 2017 at 12:23 pm PDT | by Karen Ocamb
Immigration looms as critical issue

Rep. Judy Chu at Save DACA news conference. (Photo courtesy CHIRLA)

The nation is about to convulse as President Trump presses forward with his anti-immigration campaign promises. Undocumented LGBT immigrants face particularly high risks since most of the countries from which they fled have brutal attitudes, harsh penalties, even death, for being LGBT or HIV-positive and the asylum process is too complicated and culturally incompetent to complete.

In a campaign rally speech in Phoenix, Ariz. on Tuesday, Trump threatened to shut down the federal government if he does not get federal funding to build the border wall along the U.S. southern border, even though he pledged repeatedly that Mexico would pay for it.

This comes as Congress returns from its summer recess and faces a new budget debate, raising the debt ceiling, a long-promised tax reform bill and Trump’s push to kill Obamacare. “If we have to close down that government,” President Trump said as if he was still a campaigning outsider, “we are going to build that wall.”

Meanwhile, the City of Los Angeles is fighting back against Trump’s threats to sanctuary cities. In the beginning of August, the Department of Justice sent threatening letters to the cities of San Bernardino and Stockton in California, as well as Albuquerque, New Mexico and Baltimore, warning them that federal funding will be withheld if they refuse to give federal immigration officials access to detention facilities, according to The Hill newspaper. Additionally, those cities must alert Homeland Security 48 hours before releasing an immigrant from custody.

“[A] commitment to reducing crime stemming from illegal immigration” is now a prerequisite to receive funding through the DOJ’s Public Safety Partnership Program, the letters said, thus compromising those cities’ ability to fight violent crime through federal training and technical assistance.

“By protecting criminals from immigration enforcement, cities and states with so-called ‘sanctuary’ policies make all of us less safe,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement.

The DOJ has not yet targeted Los Angeles, which Mayor Eric Garcetti has proudly proclaimed is a sanctuary city. Nonetheless, on Tuesday, City Atty. Mike Feuer joined a lawsuit filed earlier by San Francisco in U.S. District Court asking the judge to strike down those DOJ rules. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra previously announced that the state is joining the lawsuit, as well.

Feuer argues that the DOJ rules “violate the separation of powers laid out in the country’s Constitution, which give Congress, not the executive branch, control of government purse strings,” according to the LA Times. “The Trump administration is overreaching, and we’re going to fight it,” Feuer told reporters at a City Hall news conference. “We’re going to fight because the administration would put Los Angeles to the untenable choice of risking a key public safety grant or making the LAPD an arm of federal immigration policy.”

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck has publicly committed to continuing a policy started by former chief Bill Bratton to not cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or do their jobs for them. The LAPD policy is to promote community policing which encourages all people—regardless of their immigration status—to report crimes as victims or witnesses.

LA County Sheriff Jim McDonnell asserted a similar policy. “Enforcement of immigration laws is the responsibility of the federal government,” McDonnell said in a statement. “The men and women of the Sheriff’s Department are focused on keeping our local communities safe, and will not detain or arrest any individual solely on suspicion of illegal presence in the United States.”

Several LGBT community organizations met with Sheriff’s Department officials on August 22 to discuss the department’s immigration policies and a pro-immigration bill passing through the state legislature now, SB 54, known as the California Values Act.

“Many LGBT immigrants have found a safe haven in California after experiencing persecution and physical abuse in their own countries,” Dave Garcia, LA LGBT Center’s Director of Policy and Community Building, said in a statement before the community forum. “For that reason, we stand not only with our LGBT brothers and sisters, but with all immigrants who have come here to escape poverty, discrimination, and violence in their homelands.”

Also on the political horizon is a confrontation over Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Last June—before the explosion of white supremacy in Charlottesville and Trump’s controversial response—officials from 10 Republican states sent a letter to Sessions to end the DACA program by Sept. 5 or risk a federal lawsuit.

“We respectfully request that the Secretary of Homeland Security phase out the DACA program,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton wrote.
“I think we have to prepare for the worst and get ready to fight mass deportation,” Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois said in a statement before being arrested during a Save DACA demonstration in Washington DC on August 15, the 5th anniversary of the DACA immigration program.

“DACA has been one of the most beneficial immigration programs in decades, saving over 800,000 young immigrants from deportation. A significant number of these young DACA recipients are LGBT leaders in their communities and national vocal advocates,” Jorge-Mario Cabrera, the out Director of Communications for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA), told the Los Angeles Blade before demonstrations in LA. “The contributions of these young people are numerous and President Trump must stand up against those bullying immigrants and keep DACA until Congress enacts a permanent solution for these young people and their families.”

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