California preparing to protect unauthorized immigrants from federal government

By Giovanni Whaley | Dec 15, 2016

LOS ANGELES -- Unauthorized immigrants across the country are bracing for what many fear will be four years of life-changing immigration policies under the Trump administration starting in 2017. California, however, already has started preparing to protect people living in the state illegally, according to Southern California Public Radio.

California has one of the nation's largest unauthorized immigrant populations and under the progressive local and state agenda pushed by Democrats, laws have been passed to allow migrants to get driver’s licenses, health care for unauthorized immigrant children and assistance with college tuition, SCPR said.

On the state and local level in California, programs created to help those in the country illegally also have acquired crucial data identifying who thousands of unauthorized immigrants are and where they can be found. Looking at the state licensing program alone, if the federal government was granted access to that data, it would have the personal information of at least 792,000 unauthorized immigrants, SCPR said. 

 A request from the federal government to have access to state and local databases is unprecedented but President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign platform relied heavily on the call to revise immigration laws and the real possibility of mass deportations. During a campaign speech, Trump said, “In a Trump administration, all immigration laws will be enforced. As with any law enforcement activity, we will set priorities. But unlike [the Obama] administration, no one will be immune or exempt from enforcement. Anyone who has entered the United States illegally is subject to deportation. That is what it means to have laws and to have a country."

Joseph Villela, policy director for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, said California already has introduced two bills to protect people living in the state who do not have legal status in the country. These bills “create a clear division between local agencies and immigration authorities. It sends a strong message to the president elect that California will continue to protect its population regardless of status,” Villela said.

A federal immigration policy called the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals created under the Obama administration has collected the information of more than 740,000 unauthorized immigrants who were brought to the U. S. illegally as children. Obama signed an executive order granting qualified applicants temporary work permits and a temporary postponement of deportation, SCPR said. Trump has threatened to undo this executive order, which could potentially result in private data being accessed by the Trump administration, SCPR added. 

Privacy protections are supposed to be part of this program, and even though it’s too early to tell whether Trump will go after it Villela foresees a negative impact: “They are going to increase the population of the undocumented by sending more than 700,000 people into the shadows again.”

Villela says his organization is ready for any challenges and he believes all citizens need to stay informed. 

“Our engagement with the incoming administration will be to ensure that the due process of folks are respected, but also to educate Congress in regards to, you know he can do some things on his own via the Department of Homeland Security also the Attorney General’s Office can do a lot," he said. "Our focus will be to mitigate some of the potential proposals that might be coming that might be detrimental.” 

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