California is quickly becoming a battleground for immigration policy as a cross-section of leaders across the state vowed to fight any plans by President-elect Donald Trump to deport thousands of people in the U.S. illegally.
Trump said during the presidential campaign that he’ll build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and deport people in the country illegally. He is expected to unwind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, an initiative by President Obama that protects immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children.
California has some of the nation’s most liberal policies when it comes to handling immigrants here illegally. The state has allowed them to get driver’s licenses, health coverage for children and in-state tuition. Institutions like churches also support immigrants.
But the Golden State could be on a collision course with Trump if he pushes hard-line immigration policies enthusiastically backed by many of his supporters.
Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez led an interfaith prayer service Thursday night in which he reassured immigrants in the country illegally that the church would continue supporting them.
“In the past couple days since the election … we have children in our schools who are scared,” Gomez told the congregation. “They think the government is going to come and deport their parents.”
At a hastily convened meeting Friday at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti warned that the city will question Trump’s decisions on immigration.
“If the first day, as president, we see something that is hostile to our people, hostile to our city, bad for our economy, bad for our security, we will speak up, speak out, act up and act out,” Garcetti said.
The mayor also said police would continue to enforce Special Order 40, which bars officers from asking people about their immigration status.
Kamala Harris, in her first appearance since winning her U.S. Senate race, also held an event Thursday at CHIRLA to announce her support for immigrants and criticize Trump’s plan for a U.S.-Mexico border wall.
Several days of street demonstrations in Los Angeles and other cities have followed Trump’s election, with protesters denouncing the Republican’s views on issues such as immigration. About 200 people were arrested Thursday night in downtown Los Angeles, according to LAPD Officer Tony Im.
Another anti-Trump protest is planned Saturday for MacArthur Park.
Of the 742,000 people across the country protected under DACA, about 200,000 are in Los Angeles County, according to the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles.
Angelica Salas, CHIRLA’s executive director, said her office is being inundated with requests from immigrants about their status.
Marissa Montes, co-director of the Loyola Immigrant Justice Center, helps run a weekly meeting at the Dolores Mission in Boyle Heights. She said twice as many people — about 40 — showed up at this week’s forum Wednesday.
“People came out because of fear,” Montes said. “It was incredibly heartbreaking to tell people that I couldn’t tell them what was ahead.”
Loyola Immigrant Justice Center has stopped filing DACA applications, she said, over concern how those applications will be used by the Trump administration.
Trump made illegal immigration a central issue of his campaign, arguing that people here without proper documentation are a drain on the economy and take jobs away from U.S. citizens.
Trump has not outlined any specific immigration policies since winning the election Tuesday.
But Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state and a member of Trump’s immigration policy transition team, told The Times the U.S. easily could boost deportations by more than 75% in his first year in office.
Experts have said Trump could also reduce or slow down the process by which Mexicans get travel cards and visitor visas. But other Trump immigration ideas — such as building a massive wall along the border — are probably going to be more difficult to implement.
At the event Thursday with Gomez, Ernesto Vega, a Mexican immigrant who is the archdiocese’s coordinator of Hispanic Ministry for Adults, expressed fear about the fallout from the election.
“I’m close to becoming a U.S. citizen,” Vega said. “But I think of my brothers and sisters who have recently immigrated, who are barely learning the language and who are being punished because of the color of their skin.
“When I came here to this country, I did feel discrimination — in the Catholic Church, in society and in school. But I thought that we had gone way ahead,” Vega said. “Now it seems like all this effort that society has done is in danger of being destroyed.”
A previous version of this article misspelled Dolores Mission as Delores.