Los Angeles city leaders and immigration advocates rallied in front of City Hall on Friday to criticize President Trump’s decision to end protected status for hundreds of thousand of immigrants.
Mayor Eric Garcetti, U.S. Rep Jimmy Gomez, Assembly members Wendy Carrillo and Miguel Santiago, City Councilman Curren Price and others helped kick off a 12-week national campaign intended to raise awareness for the Temporary Protected Status program, which allows some immigrants fleeing violence or disasters to stay in the U.S.
The “TPS Journey for Justice Caravan” will stop at dozens of cities over the coming weeks to highlight the plight of immigrants aided by the program.
Under the Temporary Protected Status program, immigrants from certain countries affected by civil war or natural disasters are allowed to enter the United States and live here until conditions in their homelands improve.
Department of Homeland Security officials regularly review whether conditions in countries under TPS have improved to the extent that people can safely return.
Under the Trump administration, more than 400,000 people from countries such as El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan have had their legal protections revoked and must leave the U.S. within 2½ years.
Los Angeles is home to a significant number of residents protected under the program, officials said, with refugees arriving from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to escape political persecution and gang violence.
“Let me start with a message for every TPS holder in Los Angeles,” Garcetti said at Friday’s event. “We will stand with you and we will fight for you. Because Los Angeles is a city where everyone belongs and you belong here at home.”
President Obama revoked TPS status for the West African countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone during his administration.
Martha Arevalo, executive director of the Central American Resource Center, one of the caravan’s organizers, said her group was also critical of the Obama administration’s actions.
But she said Trump’s policies were being made “out of racism” and “out of an anti-immigrant sentiment.”
In an interview after the rally, Garcetti was asked about comments he made in an interview the previous day with the Associated Press in which he said Trump has done “plenty of racist things.”
Garcetti, who is considering running for president in 2020, said Friday that Trump “seems to regularly do things that are racist. His policies have a racist impact and he seems to be uncomfortable” with people who have different backgrounds than himself.
Garcetti also described the lack of African Americans working in the West Wing under Trump as “structural racism.”
During Trump’s campaign for president in 2016, Garcetti called the then-candidate “racist.”
Asked why he wasn’t using that term now to describe Trump, Garcetti replied: “I’ve increasingly said, let’s not call people a specific name, let’s call out their actions.”