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L.A. City Council approves hiring an ‘immigrant advocate’ at City Hall

Herb Wesson
Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson, at a news conference last year, says the city needs to be prepared for federal immigration policy changes.
(Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times)

In a move with symbolic timing, the Los Angeles City Council chose the day of Donald Trump’s swearing-in as America’s 45th president to approve the hiring of an “immigrant advocate” at City Hall.

Pointing to Trump’s forceful statements on immigration, council President Herb Wesson told his colleagues the city needs to be prepared for policy changes. “We have a responsibility to protect all the residents of the city,” Wesson said Friday.

The duties haven’t been defined, but Wesson wants someone with a legal background, said his spokeswoman, Vanessa Rodriguez. Whoever is hired will work in concert with Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, Rodriguez said.

It is the latest move by local and state politicians to shield immigrants from deportation by Trump. Last month, officials unveiled a $10-million city-county legal defense fund for immigrants. Several City Council members also announced plans to decriminalize sidewalk vending amid concerns that vendors could be arrested and deported.

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More than 1 million of the estimated 11 million immigrants in the country without legal status live in Los Angeles County.

The council on Friday also asked city advisors to prepare reports on state, local and federal immigration policies. It also asked for the definition of “sanctuary city” amid concerns L.A. could lose federal funding and want to know how much Los Angeles receives annually from the government.

Trump made illegal immigration a central theme during his presidential campaign and vowed during the election to punish sanctuary cities, defined by some as municipalities with lenient policies toward illegal immigration.

Los Angeles is due to receive about $500 million this fiscal year directly from the federal government to pay for services such as port security and homeless shelters, city officials said last year.

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A White House website launched Friday outlines several immigration policies, including Trump’s commitment to build a border wall and end sanctuary cities. The site also says Trump will deport “illegal aliens with violent criminal records.”

Several hundred people marched in downtown L.A. to protest Trump’s presidency. A diverse crowd took to the streets with signs carrying slogans that included: “Deport yourself to Russia,” “Here for humanity” and “Hate does not make America great.”

Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, applauded the council’s actions. “It’s absolutely appropriate and necessary that L.A. stand firm as a city of immigrants,” Salas said.

Gary Aminoff, treasurer of the Republican Party of Los Angeles County, doesn’t believe Trump will carry out mass deportations and questioned why local and state politicians are spending so much time on the issue.

“It’s a waste of time and money,” Aminoff said.

Times staff writers Rosanna Xia and Soumya Karlamangla contributed to this report.

dakota.smith@latimes.com

Twitter: @dakotacdsmith

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