Newsletter: Essential Politics: Trump’s immigration plans get serious


The politics of the illegal immigration debate, for now, come down to two words: mass deportation.

Whether that’s accurate or hyperbole is what we may be talking about for some time, given Tuesday’s actions by the administration of President Trump.

Good morning from the state capital. I’m Sacramento Bureau Chief John Myers, and from California to the East Coast and beyond, the biggest story right now is what kind of immigration crackdown is on the horizon and the effect on as many as 11 million people.



The action taken certainly appeared to be bold. As Brian Bennett and Del Quentin Wilber report, Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly issued two directives that are significant shifts in the approach to many of those living in the U.S. illegally.

As they write, “Though Kelly emphasized that immigration officers should focus first on deporting convicted criminals or those charged with crimes, his directives nonetheless unleashed deportation officers to conduct more raids in immigrant communities, detain people who don’t have criminal convictions and remove people for minor infractions such as driving without a license.”

Sean Spicer, Trump’s press secretary, disputed any notion that these policies would lead to mass deportations.

“The president wanted to take the shackles off individuals in these agencies,” he told reporters on Tuesday.



But there’s a much different take from state Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles).

“It has never been the custom and practice to go after mothers and fathers, hardworking, law-abiding, tax-paying residents,” he said in a Tuesday night interview on CNN.

And in Los Angeles, there’s anger over what immigrants rights attorneys allege to be unethical or illegal actions by federal agents portraying themselves as local police officers. Critics say the accusations often are lodged in cities with large immigrant populations like L.A. and San Francisco.


Out of the 23 candidates running to replace Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra in the open congressional seat in central Los Angeles, two are immigrants and 11 more are the children of immigrants. That makes Trump’s immigration actions a personal matter for many of the hopefuls, as well as the district they hope to represent.

A major push on deportations could be dramatic in the 34th Congressional District, which stretches from downtown Los Angeles to Boyle Heights and incorporates Highland Park, Eagle Rock and Koreatown. Two-thirds of residents there are Latino, and nearly half were born in other countries.



Those kinds of tensions may be felt this week when Kelly and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson head across the border to meet with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.

Kate Linthicum has a look at five big topics the trip will likely cover, from economic issues to whether Tillerson can soothe frayed nerves over Trump’s rhetoric.

Immigration issues also found their way to the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, where the eight justices heard arguments in a case to determine whether the family of a Mexican shooting victim — shot and killed on Mexican soil by a U.S. border agent — can sue under the Constitution.

The justices, it seemed, were evenly split on the issue. And without a ninth vote — given the pending nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch — a lower court ruling against the family may stand.


A new chapter begins this week for the president’s beleaguered national security efforts. And there’s been praise for Trump’s choice — his second choice, that is.

The president named Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster as his new national security advisor Monday, replacing Michael Flynn, who was forced to resign last week.

McMaster, a career Army officer and strategist, is known as one of the military’s most prominent intellectuals.


“He is highly respected by everyone in the military, and we’re very honored to have him,” Trump said.


Nerves may not have been calmed, though, at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday as the new boss met his troops.

During his first agency-wide address, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt focused on the need for predictability among regulated industries and the dangers of agency overreach. He tried to reassure the staff by telling them how much he values their work.

Trouble was, he had suggested in a Wall Street Journal interview over the holiday weekend that the EPA, which has taken the lead in federal efforts to regulate greenhouse gases, may not even be equipped to play much of a role at all.



Ann Ravel, the Californian who has served for some four years on the Federal Election Commission, is headed back home with frustration.

Sen. Kamala Harris met Tuesday with two men who were barred from entering the country shortly after Trump’s travel ban was put in place. After listening to their stories, Harris reacted to news of expanded deportation efforts, calling them “outrageous.”

— The legalizing pot bandwagon continues to roll across the nation. And as we saw in California, it’s often as much about cash as it is an expression of lifestyle or freedom.

— A new law that bars the use of state funds for travel to anti-LGBT states is hitting UC and Cal State student researchers and athletes.

— Will Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders endorse in the crowded race for the 34th Congressional District, in which his former campaign aide is running? At an event Sunday, Sanders’ answer was, “We’ll see.”

— It’s time for an independent commission on Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election, says Bay Area Democrat Rep. Eric Swalwell.

— To the dismay of some California lawmakers, new state agency regulations will increase the number of jails that can prevent inmates from visiting with their families in person.


— Should all of California’s power come from renewable energy? A goal of 100%, much higher than current standards, is being put on the table by the leader of the state Senate.

— One state legislator says California should have its own estate tax if Republicans in Washington do away with the federal version.

— The state Senate offered memories and tributes on Tuesday to one of their own, the late Tom Hayden. The activist and former legislator died last October.


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