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‘I am frustrated and angry’: Why a federal judge’s DACA ruling matters for California

A rally in downtown Los Angeles
High school students and members of the public rally in support of DACA in downtown Los Angeles in 2019.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Thursday, July 22. I’m Justin Ray.

We have something special for you today. In response to the recent DACA ruling by a federal judge in Texas, my colleague and buddy Fidel Martinez and I decided to collaborate. In the newest edition of his newsletter, the Latinx Files, he explores the personal stories of those who have been affected by the fight over the program. Here, I will explain what the ruling means, and why it matters to California.

Last week, a federal judge suspended a program that prevents the deportation of thousands of young immigrants brought into the U.S. as children. The ruling made by Judge Andrew Hanen of the U.S. District Court for southern Texas temporarily blocks the federal government from approving new applications to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The ruling came from a lawsuit filed by the state of Texas challenging DACA, which was created by former President Obama in 2012 through an executive order.

Hanen ruled in favor of Texas and eight other conservative states that sued to put a pause on DACA, which provides limited protections to about 650,000 people. He wrote in his ruling that Obama didn’t have the authority to create DACA because the order circumvented Congress. He added that the states proved “the hardship that the continued operation of DACA has inflicted on them.”

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The decision sets the case back on track to the U.S. Supreme Court, which previously ruled in June 2020 that former President Trump was unable to arbitrarily end DACA without following federal rule-making procedures and laying out a good explanation for ending it.

Back in March, the House passed legislation that would create a pathway toward citizenship for Dreamers, as DACA recipients are called, but the measure has been stalled in the Senate. Immigration advocates see the infrastructure reconciliation package as a chance to establish immigration reform, but it isn’t clear if that language will survive.

DACA has been important to California; 200,000 youths in the program reside in the state. Additionally, 56,900 DACA recipients here are considered essential workers, according to the Center for American Progress. Meanwhile, a 2020 Public Policy Institute of California survey found that 81% of likely California voters were in favor of the DACA protections. It also showed bipartisan support from likely Democratic (94%) and Republican voters (62%).

Hanen’s “decision is not only profoundly misguided, it’s wrong on the law,” said Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta. “Hundreds of thousands of Dreamers have shown every day how critical DACA is for our communities and for our country. The program not only generates billions of dollars for the American economy, its recipients have been on the front lines of this pandemic as doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers across the country.”

The ruling left the program intact for existing recipients. But these attacks on DACA still have an effect on those enrolled.

“I hear from my clients a tremendous sense of anxiety, and a tremendous sense of lack of security, even if they’ve been granted DACA,” says Eric Welsh, an immigration attorney at Reeves Immigration Law Group in Pasadena. “There is a very real and reasonable fear that this is not some permanent relief and a change of presidential administration, Congress or a lawsuit could result in an end to the program.”

On top of the fear linked to the ruling, Welsh says many DACA status renewal applications have taken U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services months to process. And if there is any period of time between the expiration of a person’s DACA status and its renewal, that person may accrue days of “unlawful presence,” or time spent in the U.S. illegally. That may complicate future efforts to secure family-based or employment-based green cards. Consequently, Welsh has encouraged his clients to apply for their renewal early.

What is clear is that the fight over the program isn’t over. The Texas ruling has galvanized immigration advocates to demand action.

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“As a DACA beneficiary, I am frustrated and angry that our lives are once again being thrown into the fire,” Fatima Flores, political director of the L.A.-based Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, said on social media. “To my fellow immigrants: An entire movement stands alongside us. We are not alone. To our families and allies: We need you to be relentless and fight in solidarity with us. The time to stand on the sidelines is over. We need everyone all in, now.”

And now, here’s what’s happening across California.

Note: Some of the sites we link to may limit the number of stories you can access without subscribing.

Harmful effects of California’s electric car revolution? In the name of climate action, California pushed the world toward electric cars. But building enough of them is creating its own environmental crisis. “The ocean is the place on the planet where we know least about what species exist and how they function,” Douglas McCauley, a marine science professor at UC Santa Barbara, said of plans to scrape the sea floor to create electric car batteries. “This is like opening a Pandora’s box.” Los Angeles Times

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Rows of cars
Recently imported cars are parked after being unloaded at the Port of Los Angeles.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

California coronavirus hospitalizations rise to their highest point in months as the Delta variant spreads. New coronavirus infections in the state are pushing hospitalizations to levels not seen since early spring. Statewide, the number of coronavirus patients in the hospital more than doubled in the past month, and the numbers have accelerated further in the last two weeks. Still, the state’s healthcare system is nowhere near as swamped as it was during the fall-and-winter surge. The recent increases confirm that nearly everyone falling seriously ill from COVID-19 at this point is unvaccinated. Los Angeles Times

L.A. STORIES

A SoCal businessman was arrested on federal charges that he acted as an unregistered foreign agent for the United Arab Emirates. Thomas J. Barrack Jr., who served as the chair of former President Trump’s inaugural committee, is accused of taking part in a secretive, years-long effort to shape Trump’s foreign policy as a candidate and later, president, all to benefit the wealthy Persian Gulf state, starting around the spring of 2016. “He is not guilty and will be pleading not guilty,” read a statement issued by Barrack’s spokesperson. Los Angeles Times

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POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT

S.F. expands authority to impose mental health holds. San Francisco paramedics are now able to order the confinement of individuals they believe are experiencing a mental health crisis and are a danger to themselves or others. The authority to order a hold that can last up to 72 hours was originally reserved for police officers and doctors. The move fits with the city’s plan to shift 911 calls away from police and to community paramedics. San Francisco Chronicle

CRIME AND COURTS

One of the two Northern California militia members accused of plotting to blow up the state Democratic headquarters in Sacramento was almost released to home detention on Tuesday. But Jarrod Copeland will remain behind bars for now after his wife decided she would not be able to take on the responsibilities of being his court-appointed custodian. “I know this is tough,” the judge replied after the lawyer updated the court that Shelia Copeland would not take on the role. He said he appreciated the seriousness with which she undertook the decision. KCRA

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HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Couple whose gender-reveal party sparked 2020 fire is charged with involuntary manslaughter. In September of last year — as a record heat wave crested over Southern California — a couple set off a smoke-emitting pyrotechnic device at a gender-reveal party in a Yucaipa park. The device sparked a fast-moving brush fire. The El Dorado fire, as it came to be known, ultimately charred 22,000 acres and resulted in the death of U.S. Forest Service wildland firefighter Charles Morton. On Tuesday afternoon, authorities announced that involuntary manslaughter charges had been filed against Refugio Manuel Jimenez Jr. and Angelina Renee Jimenez in connection with the fire. Their attorney information wasn’t available. Los Angeles Times

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CALIFORNIA CULTURE

A man in Santa Rosa survived being hit and dragged 60 feet while in his wheelchair. Police said Juventino Abarca, 68, remains hospitalized with serious injuries, but he is expected to live. Police said Abarca waited until the walk signal flashed before rolling through a crosswalk. But not even halfway through as he crossed, a pickup knocked him down and dragged his motorized chair down the street. KTVU

During the pandemic, SoCal violinists Etienne Gara and YuEun Kim cruised up the coast for six months in a 1971 VW bus with the goal of simply connecting with people. They played music to strangers at a safe distance, performing classical songs for anyone willing to listen. “The idea was rather than waiting for the concert halls to open, we would go to the audience because at one point as musicians we felt we had to do something, we had to play for people,” Kim said. You can see a video at the link. Los Angeles Daily News

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CALIFORNIA ALMANAC

Los Angeles: Grab a lemonade! 97. San Diego: Cloudy, but still pretty hot out there, 78. San Francisco: I was once eating sushi in the Castro District when this older lady sat next to me while I was on the phone. She began talking to me despite clearly seeing me on the phone. But I could tell she wanted someone to talk to, so I obliged. She reached into her bag 15 minutes into the conversation and handed me a hundred dollar bill. She told me she couldn’t spend all of her money and she wanted to see the community rebuild, so she asked me to spend it there. Anyway, it’s gonna be 65. San Jose: A warm one, 77. Fresno: Put some soda in the fridge so it will be cold later! 103. Sacramento: Pretty hot, 95.

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AND FINALLY

Today’s California memory is from John Reiter:

I was 14 in June 1968. Although my mother voted for Nixon in 1960, she later regretted it, and became a big fan of the Kennedys. She and I went, along with some friends, to the Ambassador Hotel on California’s presidential primary election night to watch returns and cheer Robert Kennedy. As we were leaving after Kennedy’s speech we heard shouting and screams. On a staircase we made way for people carrying someone who was wounded. One of our friends tried to get at Sirhan Sirhan as they whisked him into a police car. It was, of course, unforgettable.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments to essentialcalifornia@latimes.com.


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