California law lets college students without legal immigration status pay in-state tuition, just as legal California residents do. Another recently-enacted law provides state-funded health insurance for unauthorized immigrant youths under 19. And Los Angeles police have a longstanding policy that prevents police from questioning people for the purpose of determining their immigration status.
These and other policies run counter to the views embraced by President-elect Donald Trump during his campaign. Trump vowed to deport unauthorized immigrants, and has said he will pull federal funding from so-called “sanctuary cities,” a term that's loosely applied to municipalities that have immigrant-friendly policies.
Since Trump's victory Nov. 8, several California agencies have stated that they'll hold firm to their policies regarding immigrants and won't aid in deportations:
- Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck has said he will not change policies governing how the department handles unauthorized immigrants. As he told KPCC's AirTalk: "I depend on them to be witnesses to crime, I depend on them to report crime, I depend on them to support the police department," Beck said on Airtalk, "and none of that is as likely to happen if we become an arm of immigration enforcement."
- The board of the Los Angeles Unified School District has stated that the district will resist any request from the federal government to release students' information for immigration enforcement purposes “to the fullest extent provided by the law.”
- California State University Chancellor Timothy P. White has said that campus police won't honor federal requests for deportation holds, and that the university system would not voluntarily enter into immigration enforcement agreements with federal or other law enforcement agencies.
- Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson is proposing that the city hire an "immigrant advocate" to help the city navigate anticipated changes in federal immigration policies and maintain federal funding under a Trump presidency. The city currently receives about $506 million a year in federal grants that help pay for services like affordable housing, public safety, transit programs and port security. The city council could vote on the motion Tuesday.
Some also anticipate potential clashes, with state and local governments conflicting with a Trump administration, depending on which immigration policies the incoming administration pursues.
"Even though federal authorities have paramount authority in immigration, it is going to be difficult for them to implement any policy without at least some cooperation from local governments and local law enforcement," said Raphael Sonenshein, a political scientist at Cal State Los Angeles.
"So this could become a real struggle," he said, "a real political and fiscal struggle.”
Experts say that struggle could lead to lawsuits flying in both directions, from a Trump administration seeking changes and from state and local agencies fighting those changes.
Federal dollars make their way into all manner of state and local programs. For example, the Cal State system gets about $996 million a year in federal support for financial aid, according to Cal State Long Beach spokeswoman Toni Molle.
The Cal State system gets almost $400 million more in grants and contracts for teacher programs, minority services and research, among other things.
Federal funds flow into the state's budget for Medi-Cal, California’s version of Medicaid. California recently began providing full-scope Medi-Cal for immigrant kids under 19 who don’t have legal status. Even though the state pays for that, it could still come under scrutiny. The state could also lose some Medi-Cal funding if the Affordable Care Act is dismantled.
But experts warn that pulling federal funds from state programs might be more easily said than done.
"Money that comes to states, cities and counties has gone through a process," Sonenshein said. "If they have met requirements that were either under federal law or under the process for which they applied, that introduces a complication."
For example, cutting off certain types of funding would require federal agencies to set new rules, which can take time and touch off legal battles, he said.
Meanwhile, Trump recently softened his tone during an interview on "60 Minutes," saying he'd be targeting unauthorized immigrants with criminal records — not unlike the stance President Barack Obama has so far embraced. On the campaign trail, Trump often spoke of deporting all of the estimated 11 million immigrants in the U.S. illegally.
On Friday, California Trump campaign spokesman Jon Cordova said that "there is going to be an active effort to deport criminals. Violent criminals at first, that are here illegally."
Cordova added that for now, the Trump camp is focused on the transition to power.