Several Los Angeles City Council members are calling on federal lawmakers to do more to help the thousands of immigrant children who have crossed the Mexican border alone in recent months.
L.A. officials plan to introduce a council motion Friday asking the government to provide more aid to help shelter the young immigrants as well as provide them with expanded legal support. The council members also oppose proposed changes to a 2008 anti-human trafficking law that would make it easier to deport unaccompanied minors who entered the country illegally.
At a news conference Thursday at MacArthur Park, long a gathering place for the city's large Central American immigrant population, Councilman Gil Cedillo described the motion as an effort "to distinguish our city ... from other cities, like Murrieta."
He was referring to the Riverside County city that garnered national headlines this summer when protesters turned away busloads of immigrant children and mothers who were being taken to a Border Patrol processing facility there.
While leaders in other cities and states have expressed dismay at the prospect of receiving immigrants in their communities, with many calling them a drain on resources, officials in Los Angeles have gone out of their way to broadcast the opposite message.
Last month, Mayor Eric Garcetti said the city would help shelter immigrant children who have been detained after crossing the border. The mayor's office is working with the federal agency in charge of housing the children to identify locations that could be used as temporary shelters, Garcetti spokeswoman Vicki Curry said Thursday.
Los Angeles is home to the largest concentration of Salvadorans, Guatemalans and Hondurans in the United States.
Cedillo, the son of Mexican immigrants whose district includes the MacArthur Park area, said the city's support for the arriving children is tied to its obligations to existing immigrant residents. "They are inextricably linked to their homelands," he said.
He and the motion's co-sponsors, council members Mitch O'Farrell, Curren Price and Nury Martinez, said Los Angeles should do what it can to aid the minors and use the bully pulpit to call for appropiate legislation. They oppose proposals to amend an anti-human trafficking law that guarantees that young immigrants from Central American countries receive a hearing before an immigration judge, saying the law guarantees the children due process.
There are various proposals in Congress to speed up legal proceedings in such cases, which currently can drag on for years. Proponents of changes, including President Obama, hope they will help stem the tide of migrant children. More than 57,000 unaccompanied children have been apprehended at the border since October and U.S. officials have struggled to house them and process their cases.
There is little likelihood that changes to the law will be made any time soon. Lawmakers in Congress have failed to reach an agreement on border spending bills that would have addressed the law, and are set to adjourn for the August break without action on the issue.