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LA officials asked to hire immigrant advocate as Trump presidency takes shape

The Los Angeles City Council will consider hiring an immigrant advocate to help the city work through federal policies and funding under a Donald Trump presidency. Brian Weed/Flickr Creative Commons

Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson is proposing the city hire an immigrant advocate to help the city navigate anticipated changes in federal immigration policies and federal funding under a Donald Trump presidency.

On Thursday, Wesson announced plans to propose the new position next Tuesday when the council meets. Among other tasks, a city immigrant advocate would help identify federal money that the city receives which could be jeopardized if Los Angeles defies Trump policies on issues like deporting unauthorized immigrants.

"For the past week, you've had so many people in the city of Los Angeles having so many questions and concerns," Wesson said Thursday. "You have a lot of people who are frightened. "

Trump has threatened to cancel federal funding for so-called "sanctuary cities" like Los Angeles that have immigrant-friendly policies and services.

"We want to protect the money that we have," Wesson said. "We hear all of these various threats and you see things on TV, you hear things on the radio. So I want to have somebody that can actually dig in and find out what, if anything, is in jeopardy, what is at risk, and what must be done to make sure we protect the resources the city obtains from the federal government." 

Wesson's proposal comes as California and local government and education leaders announce or take steps to address fears among immigrants that they may face deportation because of Trump's stance on unauthorized immigration.

Earlier this week, L.A. Police Chief Charlie Beck said his department plans to continue to work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement where appropriate but adding it is not the job of LAPD to enforce immigration laws. 

Also this week, the Los Angeles Unified School District board passed a resolution saying the district would resist any attempt to force disclosure of data on student information, including their immigration status. 

About 5.6 percent of the city's $8.8 billion 2016-1017 budget comes from federal funds, according to the office of the City Administrative Officer. That amounts to about $506 million.

The federal funds include community development block grants that help pay for affordable housing. Other public services funded with the grants include port security, transit programs, library programs, and public safety, said Cielo Castro, a spokesperson for the City Administrative Officer.

Trump has not discussed specifically how federal funds might be pulled from sanctuary cities that fail to comply with his policies.

"It is really premature," Castro said. "We won't really know what President-elect Trump's position will be until he releases his budget." The president usually submits a budget for the next fiscal year on or before the first Monday in February.

While protecting federal funding is a priority, a city "immigrant advocate" would also work closely with Mayor Eric Garcetti's Office of Immigrant Affairs, Wesson said. The office was established three years ago to focus on integrating immigrants into the community.

The proposal also calls for the immigrant advocate to work with LAUSD officials and the community college district to "coordinate strategies to protect students and keep families together," according to Wesson's proposal.

A City Hall immigrant advocate would also work on identifying state laws relevant to the city that might conflict with federal laws that could change, Wesson said. He or she would also work with county and state officials on immigrant-related legislation and legal action.