PolitiCal

On politics in the Golden State

Category: Immigration

Tea party lawmaker tests fundraising waters for gubernatorial bid

TimDonnellyGovernor

A self-described tea party Republican lawmaker is testing the fundraising waters for a possible California gubernatorial bid.

Assemblyman Tim Donnelly (R-Twin Peaks) sent supporters an email Thursday asking them to contribute to his exploratory campaign and weigh in on his potential candidacy via Facebook.

"As recent as two years ago, if you had asked me if I would ever consider running for governor, I would have called you crazy," the lawmaker wrote. "A lot has changed."

A former member of the volunteer border patrol group known as the Minutemen, Donnelly was elected in 2010 on an anti-illegal immigration platform. Known for his bombastic style, the lawmaker has become one of the Legislature's most ardent supporters of gun rights and recently introduced a proposal that would allow school districts to spend education funds to train teachers, administrators and janitors to use firearms.

He made headlines last year after being detained by police at Ontario International Airport when security screeners found a loaded pistol and an ammunition magazine in his briefcase. Donnelly called the incident an "honest mistake," saying he had simply forgotten the firearm was in his bag.

So far Donnelly has the field to himself. His bid, however, poses a challenge for California Republicans, who have signaled a desire to soften the party's harsh rhetoric on issues such as immigration after years of self-inflicted wounds and declining voter registration numbers. With Democrats holding supermajorities in both houses of the Legislature, the party has been pushed to the sidelines in the Capitol.

On Thursday, Donnelly asked his supporters to help him shape his agenda.

"Ever since I was elected to the State Assembly two years ago, I've had the chance to see firsthand how our state's leaders have abandoned the dreams of ordinary Californians, mocked our cherished values, and extinguished the spirit of freedom," he wrote. "All it takes is an irate minority to change the course of history."

As of Thursday afternoon, his Facebook page had 2,975 "likes." State records show he received a single $1,000 donation after announcing his exploratory committee last year.

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Photo: Assemblyman Tim Donnelly (R-Twin Peaks) at the Capitol. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times

4 GOP state lawmakers endorse federal immigration overhaul

076643.ME.0122.gorell.1This post has been updated. See the note below for details.

In a sign of changing political times, four California Republican lawmakers joined a dozen of their Democratic colleagues Thursday in announcing support for an overhaul of federal immigration law including a pathway to citizenship for those in the country illegally.

The news conference supporting a resolution urging congressional action was attended by GOP Assemblymen Katcho Achadjian of San Luis Obispo and Jeff Gorell of Camarillo as well as Sen. Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres).

[Updated, 12:37 p.m., Jan. 31: Assemblyman Rocky Chavez (R-Oceanside) also attended the news conference supporting the resolution, bringing the number of GOP lawmakers to four, rather than three as a previous version of this post stated.]

With President Obama and a bipartisan group of U.S. senators proposing immigration measures, Gorell said he is encouraged something will happen. "The details I have read so far appear to be thoughtful reflection of the reality that we need to create a pathway to citizenship, while embracing common sense requirements of border security and an employment verification system going forward,’’ Gorell said in a statement issued before Thursday’s event.

Cannella also announced his support for a state bill providing driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants who can provide documentation showing they have been paying taxes in the state, with the idea that obtaining a driver's license would require them to pass a driving safety test and have insurance.

"It’s not only a safety issue but it’s the right thing to do," Cannella said.

Cannella represents a farming area of the Central Valley, and a California Farm Bureau spokeswoman said agricultural businesses are struggling to find enough U.S. citizens to work in the fields.

With the number of Californian voters registered as Republican falling below 30%, Southern California activist Diana Colin suggested that the shift on immigration by some Republicans may be motivated by a need to get more support from Latinos. "The Republicans definitely know they need us in the next election," she said at the news conference.

Cannella denied he was motivated by politics, saying it was futile now to try to stand in the way of immigration reform. "This is going to happen. If anybody wants to get in the way they are going to get steamrolled over," he said.

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Photo: Republican Assemblyman Jeff Gorell of Camarillo. Credit: Bob Carey / Los Angeles Times

 

California lawmaker pushes driver's licenses for more illegal immigrants

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A week after California began issuing driver’s licenses to a select group of young illegal immigrants, a state lawmaker has proposed that licenses be provided to many others who are unlawfully in the country.

A new state  law that took effect Jan. 1 allows driver's licenses to be issued to those given a work permit as part of an Obama administration program that suspends deportation for many people who arrived illegally as children.

Now, Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D- Salinas) has introduced AB 60, which would provide California driver's licenses to anyone who can show they pay taxes, regardless of their immigration status.

Alejo estimates there are up to a million illegal immigrants who are driving without licenses and thus many are on the road without proper training, testing or insurance. His bill would allow licenses if someone provides the Department of Motor Vehicles with a federal individual taxpayer identification number or other document deemed proof of paying taxes.

"Having uninsured drivers is a hazard for everyone," Alejo said. "The Safe and Responsible Driver Act improves safety on our roadways because it will ensure that immigrants that pay taxes will be eligible for a driver’s license with insurance requirements."

Gov. Jerry Brown signed last year’s bill, citing "the unique status of these students," but has voiced concerns about providing licenses to all illegal immigrants.

The legislation is opposed by Barbara Coe, president of the California Coalition for Immigration Reform. She worries that driver's licenses will allow illegal immigrants to access other services and rights available to U.S. citizens. "I do not support rewarding lawbreakers in any shape or form," Coe said.

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Photo: A lawmaker wants more illegal immigrants to be eligible for driver's licenses. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

California lawmaker proposes benefits for undocumented immigrants

  Assemblyman Roger Hernandez wants to expand government benefits for hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who qualify for a new federal work-permit program

A California lawmaker wants to expand government benefits for hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who qualify for a new federal work-permit program.

Assemblyman Roger Hernandez (D-West Covina) introduced legislation this week aimed at illegal immigrants who are part of an Obama administration protocol that allows undocumented immigrants who came to the United States before they were 16, and who are now 30 or younger and meet certain other criteria, to obtain work permits.

The bill, AB 35, would enable those immigrants to obtain state identification cards and receive unemployment benefits and state-administered medical services. This year, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a measure that will allow that group of young immigrants to obtain driver's licenses.

"I am focused on restoring California's strong economy and competitiveness throughout the world," Hernandez said in a statement. "As such, we just cannot afford to turn our backs on our young immigrant students, especially those who have proven success in their academic and employment achievements."

Lawmakers are also pursuing other immigration measures.

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) has reintroduced the so-called Trust Act -- a proposal to bar local officials from helping federal authorities deport undocumented immigrants unless the immigrants have been convicted of, or charged with, a serious or violent felony.

Immigration activists say that aggressive deportation efforts have discouraged illegal immigrants -- and victims of domestic violence in particular -- from reporting crimes.

Brown vetoed a similar proposal earlier this year.

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Photo: Assemblyman Roger Hernandez (D–West Covina). Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

State Legislature to tackle immigration, fracking in new session

State lawmakers were sworn in to a reshaped Legislature on Monday, with Democrats holding historic two-thirds supermajorities in both houses and the party's leaders calling for investment in public education and infrastructure after years of fiscal retrenchment.

As detailed in Tuesday's Times, legislative leaders ticked off a list of priorities, saying they would move quickly to implement the federal healthcare law and use their new powers to help restore spending to popular social services and curb tuition at public colleges.

Lawmakers also revived two hot topics that fizzled in the last legislative session: immigration and fracking.

On Monday, before he had even been sworn in, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) gathered with a group of Democratic lawmakers, religious leaders and immigrant rights advocates to announce the reintroduction of the Trust Act — a proposal to bar local officials from helping federal authorities deport undocumented immigrants unless they have been convicted of, or charged with, a serious or violent felony.

Brown vetoed a similar proposal earlier this year that did not address serious crimes, including child abuse and drug trafficking. Lawmakers said they were committed to making changes and working with the governor on the bill.

Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) and state Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) each introduced legislation to regulate hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a controversial method of oil extraction that involves injecting chemical-laced water and sand deep into the ground to tap crude. Past proposals died in the face of industry opposition. State regulators are currently drafting rules for fracking.

"The public has a right to know the type of chemicals that are being pumped underground in case there is a leak or contamination," Wieckowski said in a statement. "Our state has done a poor job of collecting this important information and the public is demanding answers."

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Riverside County Assembly race sparks debate on immigration laws

The 67th Assembly District in Riverside County is a long way geographically and ideologically from the Democrat-controlled Capitol in Sacramento. That has been clear from the campaigns of the two candidates there.

Although the state Legislature has extended college scholarships and driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, the two Republicans battling it out in the 67th  have been competing over which one is tougher on enforcement of immigration laws.

The race features Melissa Melendez, a Lake Elsinore city councilwoman, vying against Phil Paule, a director with the Eastern Municipal Water District. He lives in French Valley and is district director for Rep. Darrell Issa (R- Vista). She is a businesswoman who served as a Russian translator in the U.S. Navy.

Paule has sent out mailers questioning whether Melendez is tough enough on illegal immigration.  "I'm against the Dream Act,'' he said in an interview regarding the California scholarship law. "I don't think we should be subsidizing the scholarships of people who are here illegally.''

Melendez also opposed the Dream Act and said that, as mayor, she passed a requirement that the city’s businesses use the federal E-Verify system to make sure job applicants are legal residents, although the governor later signed a law barring that requirement. She also pushed through a council resolution supporting Arizona’s tough immigration law.

The two have also fought over who has a better record on fiscal issues. Paule said he was part of water board actions to expand the use of recycling water and adopt a rate structure that charges less to those who use water responsibly. Said Melendez: "I’ve done pension reform. I've balanced the budget. I've done it on time. I've cut taxes for the businesses."

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After Jerry Brown vetoes California immigration bill, LAPD goes it alone

CharlieBeck

Days after Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed controversial legislation that would have blunted federal deportation efforts, the Los Angeles Police Department has decided to set its own policy on illegal immigrants.

On Thursday, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck announced that hundreds of illegal immigrants arrested by his officers each year in low-level crimes would no longer be turned over to federal authorities for deportation.The policy is similar to a proposal called the Trust Act that Brown rejected this week.

As The Times' Joel Rubin and Andrew Blankstein reported Friday, the new rules are the latest in a series of moves by Beck to redefine the LAPD's position on immigration issues.

Earlier this year, the chief pushed through a controversial plan that limits the cases in which police officers impound vehicles of drivers operating without a license — a group consisting largely of illegal immigrants. And he came out in favor of issuing driver's licenses to illegal immigrants.

Brown vetoed state legislation Sunday that would have prohibited local law enforcement officials from detaining undocumented immigrants unless they had been convicted or charged with a serious or violent felony. The governor said the proposal was "fatally flawed" because it omitted serious crimes, including child abuse and drug trafficking.

It would have been the first law of its kind in the nation. In his veto message, however, he pledged to work with lawmakers and revisit the issue.

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Photo: LAPD Chief Charlie Beck at a press conference in Los Angeles last year. Credit: Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times.

Brown approves driver's licenses for young undocumented immigrants

Gov. Jerry Brown approves driver's licenses for young undocumented immigrants.The governor signed a bill Sunday that will let hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants qualify for California driver’s licenses.

Young people would qualify if they are accepted by a federal program giving work permits to those who came to this country before they were 16 and are now 30 or younger.

As many as 350,000 undocumented immigrants in California may be eligible for the Obama administration program, which waives the threat of deportation for two years for those who have no criminal record. 

Brown spokesman Gil Duran said that by issuing the driver’s licenses, the state will merely be adhering to the new federal rules imposed by the White House.

“Gov. Brown believes the federal government should pursue comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship,” Duran said. “President Obama has recognized the unique status of these students, and making them eligible to apply for driver’s licenses is an obvious next step.''

The state Department of Motor Vehicles has concluded the federal program appears to confer a status on undocumented immigrants that would qualify them for licenses, but the bill by Assemblyman Gilbert Cedillo (D-Los Angeles) clarifies that any papers issued by the federal program are sufficient to get a license.

 "I'm proud the governor chose public safety over the politics of the day,'' Cedillo said.

The legislation signed by the governor is AB 2189.

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Immigrant-rights groups divided over bills on Gov. Brown's desk

A split emerged in the immigrant rights community Thursday over two bills on the governor’s desk. More than a dozen groups representing immigrant youths urged Jerry Brown to sign the Trust Act but opposed a bill providing driver’s licenses that they say would affect many fewer people.

The concern, the groups say, is that the governor may only feel the need to sign one major immigration bill this year and that it might be AB 2189. That bill would provide clear authority for the DMV to issue driver's licenses to up to 450,000 young immigrants who qualify for work permits under a new federal program deferring deportations for those brought to the country as minors.

The Dream Team activists worry that the governor might then veto the Trust Act, a bill that would prohibit local authorities from complying with federal detention requests except when a suspect has been charged with a serious or violent crime. That bill potentially affects many more Californians, said Oday Guerrero, founder of the 20-member Central Valley Dream Team.

"The Trust Act is really crucial," said Guerrero, who is undocumented. "We wouldn’t want Gov. Brown to favor one bill that would only benefit a small percentage of the undocumented population over another bill that would benefit a  lot of people, not just Dreamers but their parents, their aunts, uncles, family members."

Fourteen youth immigrant groups, including some in Los Angeles and Orange counties, sent the governor a letter Thursday in which they said the driver’s license bill by Assemblyman Gilbert Cedillo (D-Los Angeles) is more symbolic, because they believe they would qualify for licenses without the bill once the federal government gives them work permits.

"On behalf of Dreamers in the state of California, we write this letter in opposition to Assemblyman Cedillo’s symbolic driver’s license bill, AB 2189, and we urge you to sign the TRUST Act, Assemblyman (Tom) Ammiano’s AB 1081, now," the letter said.

Cedillo said his bill is more than symbolic because it puts the eligibility for licenses into state law. He said there is no need for groups to urge Brown to favor one bill over the other; they can have both, he said.

"The governor has already demonstrated that he is not a one-bill governor when it comes to immigration," Cedillo said.  "Last year he signed three bills that had a positive impact on immigrants living in California."

The dispute emerged on the same day that several members of Congress wrote to Brown, urging him to sign the Trust Act.

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Dispute helped sideline California sanctuary bill for illegal immigrants

Immig

A difference of opinion in the immigrant-rights community appears to have contributed to the demise of  state legislation that would have provided a safe haven in California for those who came to the country illegally but have otherwise obeyed the law.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) and Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes (D-Sylmar) introduced a bill that would have provided a sanctuary in the state for many immigrants who came to California illegally before 2008.

SB 901 was supported by immigrant rights groups including the Central American Resource Center and Hermandad Mexicana, but it never received a final vote as the Legislature ended its session Aug. 31. The bill ran into concerns by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), which worried about a requirement for undocumented immigrants to register with the state Department of Justice, officials said.

"We met with MALDEF several times about SB 901 where they expressed concerns over privacy issues related to the legislation," said Ben Golombek, a spokesman for Fuentes. He said legislators asked the group to provide amendments to address their concerns.

"Unfortunately we never received anything from them," Golombek said. "It’s disappointing that instead of taking an opportunity to constructively participate in the process and address their concerns, they chose to lobby against the bill." 

Thomas A. Saenz, the president and general counsel for MALDEF, said his group was neutral on the bill, but that he told Fuentes’ office that there were constitutional problems in having the state register, track and do background checks on immigrants. "That is a federal responsibility," Saenz said. The attorney said he told Fuentes’ staff that the problem could be fixed by taking out the requirement that immigrants register with the state Justice Department.

But there appears to have been another complication as well. The Legislature had approved a separate bill known as the Trust Act, that would prohibit local authorities from complying with federal detention requests against suspected illegal immigrants except when a suspect has been charged with a serious or violent crime.

Saenz said the Trust Act was his group’s priority because, unlike SB 901, it did not require the "politically dicey" act of getting the federal government to agree to a new scheme.

One source in the middle of the talks said there was concern by some in the immigrant community that if Gov. Jerry Brown also received SB 901, he might have signed that one and vetoed the Trust Act as less far-reaching. In the end, SB 901 never reached the Senate floor.

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Photo: A group of men who were deported from the U.S. last year wait outside a government office in Mexicali, Mexico. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times

 

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