L.A. leaders just vowed to fight deportations under Trump. Here’s what they’ve proposed

Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson

Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson at a news conference in May. He has called on his colleagues to create a new position of immigration advocate at City Hall.

(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles city officials on Thursday began outlining a wide-ranging battle plan for dealing with the Donald Trump presidency, vowing to push back against efforts to deport people in this country illegally while also working to protect — and perhaps even increase — federal funding for projects ranging from transportation to homelessness.

The most pressing priority, officials said, is to address concerns that Trump will make good on his promise to crack down on illegal immigration, which has sparked both anxiety and protests across the city. Los Angeles County is home to more than 1 million of the estimated 11 million immigrants in the country without legal status.

Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson announced Thursday he’ll seek to hire an immigrant advocate to take on the effort and pursue policies to prevent L.A. residents from being deported. He also said the city should work with schools and community colleges on strategies to keep families together and prevent deportations.

It remains far from clear what exactly city governments can do to block or even delay deportations, which are under the jurisdiction of the federal government. 


Some cities have refused to fully cooperate with immigration officials. San Francisco enacted a law stating that local authorities could not hold immigrants for possible deportation if they had no violent felonies on their records and did not currently face charges.

Critics say the tough talk in the wake of Trump’s election is more about politics than actually preventing the president-elect from having his way.


Los Angeles officials have been vocal since election day about protecting the city’s immigrants. Earlier this week, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck reiterated that the department has no plans to get involved in any deportation efforts by the federal government and would continue a longstanding policy against allowing officers to stop people solely to determine their immigration status.


Illegal immigration was a central issue of Trump’s presidential campaign. Trump called for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, deportation of people who are in the country illegally and a rollback in the immigration relief created under President Obama. Trump said during the campaign that he would withhold federal funds to punish so-called sanctuary cities, including Los Angeles and Chicago, for their lenient policies toward illegal immigration. Wesson wants the city to assess the definition of a “sanctuary city” and how that designation could jeopardize federal monies the city receives. 

Mayor Eric Garcetti this week put the battle in economic terms, expressing concern that mass deportations would hurt the Southern California economy, which he said is dependent on the labor and tax dollars of noncitizens.

“L.A.'s success is important not only to our region’s economy, but to our national economic health,” said mayoral spokeswoman Connie Llanos. “As a diverse city built by immigrants and dedicated to second chances, we are also going to need assurances that the safety of our neighborhoods will not be compromised and children will not be ripped apart from their families.”

Beyond immigration, Los Angeles leaders are beginning to assess how a Trump administration and Republican-controlled Congress could affect hundreds of millions of dollars the Democratic-dominated city government directly receives.

Federal funds often come with strings attached, said City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, which can sometimes set local policies. For example, some federal housing funds now require the city to follow green building standards.

Under a Trump administration, money could be tied to the enforcement of certain immigration policies, said Santana, the city’s top budget official. 

City officials said they don’t know whether the new administration will bring major changes in funding priorities.

At a Los Angeles Times event about how California is responding to the incoming administration, Garcetti said Thursday that he is willing to try to work with Trump.


“I have reached out to Trump. We are arranging a phone call,” the mayor said.  

He added: “Where I would hope to cooperate with and work with the administration is … on infrastructure, on homelessness, on expanding green space, and dealing with climate change and investing in education.”

The city will receive about $500 million in federal funds this fiscal year. That pays for an array of services, including port security, library reading programs and homeless shelters.

The figure doesn’t include federal money received by agencies such as the Los Angeles Housing Services Authority, a joint city and county agency that oversees homeless services. LAHSA received about $23 million in federal Housing and Urban Development funds this fiscal year.

Addressing the region’s 28,000 homeless is just one of City Hall’s priorities. Others include restoring an 11-mile stretch of the Los Angeles River from Griffith Park to downtown Los Angeles. City officials have said they want the federal government to pay hundreds of millions of dollars toward the project.

Officials are also counting on federal funding to help build out the city’s transit system, specifically a subway through the Sepulveda Pass.

When former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa took office in 2005,  President George W. Bush was in the White House. At that time, federal funding for economic development, housing and transportation wasn’t as widely available as it became in the early Obama years, Villaraigosa said.

As Los Angeles leaders lobby for money from Washington, D.C., in the coming years, they’ll have to work more closely with Republicans to maintain funding for priorities such as homelessness and transit lines.


“They must show that without those dollars, homelessness will increase, our transportation [projects] could be delayed,” Villaraigosa said.

After passage last week of a new tax to fund transportation across the county, Los Angeles leaders are expressing hope Trump will carry through with his promise to ramp up funding for highways, bridges and other infrastructure projects. At a news conference following the election, Garcetti cited Trump’s plan.

“We’re going to hold him to that,” the mayor said.

Los Angeles’ strong pushback against deportations is already facing criticism from some anti-illegal immigration activists.

Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, said federal immigrant authorities can enforce anywhere in the country, despite what local jurisdictions want.

Los Angeles leaders, he said, are just “venting their unhappiness about the election.”

“A lot of this is just posturing,” Mehlman added. “There’s really not a lot L.A. can do to protect people in the country that they haven’t already done.”

But local leaders said they are responding to real fear among residents about a Trump presidency. Councilman Gil Cedillo, who represents heavily immigrant neighborhoods such as Westlake and Chinatown, said he’s constantly getting text messages on the topic from constituents. 

“People are upset. People are scared. People are looking for leadership and direction,” he said.
 | Twitter: @dakotacdsmith | Twitter: @DavidZahniser


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8:05 a.m., Nov. 18: This post has been updated to note that the Garcetti comments were made at a Los Angeles Times event.

6:15 p.m.: This post was updated with additional information and a quote from Mayor Eric Garcetti about priorities he would like to focus on with the Trump administration.

10:55 a.m.: This post was updated with a quote from Mayor Garcetti from his CNN appearance.

This post was originally published at 10:35 a.m., Nov. 17.

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