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LA County officials in DC to talk immigration, guns, dollars

LA County Supervisor Don Knabe meets with lawmakers on Capitol Hill
LA County Supervisor Don Knabe meets with lawmakers on Capitol Hill
LA County Supervisor Don Knabe meets with lawmakers on Capitol Hill
Sheriff Baca lobbies for gun safety on Capitol Hill

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LA County officials are in Washington this week, telling members of Congress how federal laws are affecting Southern California.

One of the messages: an unintended consequence of the proposed immigration bill could mean L.A. County picks up the tab for the health care of more than a million people.

It's a nexus between immigration reform and new health care laws. Tucked away in the 844-page Senate immigration bill is a provision that forbids undocumented immigrants from getting health insurance through the exchanges set up by the Affordable Care Act — until they complete their provisional status. L.A. County Supervisor Don Knabe says that's 15 years of no federal dollars. 

Knabe says the county currently gets about $600 million annually from the federal government to partially reimburse hospitals for treating the uninsured. Because the immigration bill also forbids any entitlement dollars from being spent on the undocumented, the county would lose the money.

"While we all we all may support immigration reform to a certain degree or a path to citizenship, " says Knabe, "it can't be at any cost. They have to be sensitive to the costs to local governments. "

Knabe says Senator Dianne Feinstein was receptive. She and the Judiciary Committee begin debating amendments to the immigration bill on Thursday. 

L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca had his own concerns about immigration reform. He's lobbying for more federal dollars to pay for the incarceration of undocumented immigrants in L.A. County. Currently, the county gets $6 million annually – an all time low. At one time, the federal government repaid the county $34 million for the costs of such incarceration.

Baca also met with Feinstein to discuss what he calls "loopholes" in gun safety. Baca says he and the National Sheriffs Association understand the Second Amendment is a vital civil right. But, he doesn't think it's "unreasonable to have gun safety locks" or to go after retrieving weapons that are in the hands of former convicted felons, "as well as those who have mental challenges that make them incompetent to own a weapon."

Baca says gun safety, rather than gun control, is the way to go, Forget the idea that you can control anything, he says, but find ways to make us safer as a nation. The sheriff said Senator Feinstein was realistic, not offering a lot of hope that Congress would return to the issue in the near future.