The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to help eligible immigrants apply for President Obama's contested deferred action program, even as the fate of the president’s signature immigration initiative remains unclear.
On a 4-1 vote, the supervisors formed a task force to determine how the county can assist immigrants eligible for Obama's planned expansion of the program, which would offer temporary protection from deportation to an estimated 5 million immigrants in the country illegally.
The lone dissenter, Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, said it was premature for the county to move forward with the plan until various challenges to the expansion of the program are resolved.
A Texas judge ordered a temporary halt to the expansion of the program last week, saying Obama didn’t have the legal authority to make the changes. The Republican-controlled Congress is also attempting to block the expansion by refusing to fund the programs.
Nearly half a million L.A. County residents would be eligible for the program, which would offer temporary deportation relief and work permits to many immigrants brought to the U.S. as children as well as many parents of U.S. citizen children.
Supporters of deferred action cited its potential economic benefits, pointing to a recent study by UCLA’s North American Integration and Development Center that found that L.A. County would reap an additional $1.1 billion in tax revenue.
“When you see something that’s good for people and good for the economy, you have to go for it,” said David Rattray, of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, who spoke in favor of the program at a news conference with labor and religious leaders before Tuesday's vote.
Steve Lamb, who testified against the county proposal, said the supervisors should have waited until the future of Obama's program is clear. “It was inappropriate for them to vote on this," Lamb said.
A judge issued an injunction against the expansion of the program after Texas and 25 other states sued to stop it, accusing Obama of overstepping his legal authority.
The state of California and several California cities have come out in support of deferred action, with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti filing a friend of the court brief in the Texas case in support of the president's program.
The city of Los Angeles launched a campaign, Step Forward L.A., to encourage immigrants to apply for the program, and Garcetti has pledged to help raise $10 million to help at least 100,000 immigrants in the L.A. area with their applications.
The motion to establish a deferred action task force at the county was written by newly elected Supervisors Hilda Solis and Sheila Kuehl. They said there were numerous ways the county could help get the word out about the expanded immigration program, including posting information about the program in libraries and parks.
Solis said the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder could also play an important role by providing immigrants eligible for the programs copies of birth and marriage certificates and other official documents. Immigrants applying for deferred action will have to provide proof that they have lived in the country continuously since 2010.
Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who also voted in favor of the motion, suggested the move was partly political, calling it an "opportunity to telegraph to the nation that we get it."
Supervisor Don Knabe, one of two Republicans, with Antonovich, on the board, voted in favor of the task force, but asked that any plan developed by the team come back to the board for a vote before being implemented. He stopped short of voicing support for the president's action.
"Whether you're for it or against it, at some point we're going to have to be ready as a county to move forward," he said.