Politics

Garcetti uses DC trip to talk LA infrastructure, immigration

Mayor Eric Garcetti speaks onstage during the EMA IMPACT Summit hosted by the Environmental Media Association presented by Toyota Mirai and Calvert Research and Management at Montage Beverly Hills on March 23, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California.
Mayor Eric Garcetti speaks onstage during the EMA IMPACT Summit hosted by the Environmental Media Association presented by Toyota Mirai and Calvert Research and Management at Montage Beverly Hills on March 23, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California.
Rich Polk/Getty Images

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti was in Washington, D.C. Wednesday to be honored by the National Council of La Raza for his advocacy of Latinos, but he took advantage of the trip to the nation's capital to discuss two issues important to the city — infrastructure and immigration — with congressional and administration leaders.

At the 30th Annual NCLR Capital Awards Gala on Wednesday night, Garcetti and Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh were recognized for their immediate opposition to President Donald Trump's executive orders targeting "sanctuary cities" and undocumented immigrants with criminal records.

Garcetti told KPCC earlier Wednesday that he planned to share his family's story in his acceptance speech because it's an important time to do so. Garcetti said his grandfather fled the Mexican Revolution "as a 1-year-old boy in his mother's arms." He came to Los Angeles as a dreamer and a refugee without documentation, eventually fighting for the U.S. in World War II and earning his citizenship.

"As a result, his grandson is mayor of the largest city in the largest state in the country," Garcetti said.

On the same day he was honored by the country's largest Latino civil rights organization, Garcetti joined seven other mayors and police chiefs to meet with Homeland Security chief John Kelly in a discussion about immigration enforcement.

Garcetti denounced the administration's threat to take away grant money from cities, such as L.A., that limit local law enforcement's cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

"There is, you know, a gulf unfortunately that remains on immigration work between the administration seeking to punish jurisdictions by taking away law enforcement dollars. That seems crazy to take away from LAPD or other law enforcement agencies the funding that protects us from terrorists, that protects us from criminals," Garcetti told KPCC.

In a speech on Monday, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced his office would withhold up to $4.1 billion in federal grants from such cities.

At the meeting with Kelly, Garcetti said he shared his perspective about the importance of winning and keeping the trust of immigrant communities.

"We're worried that the administration's moves have really undermined those decades of trust," he said. "We want to make sure we can work together to get the really dangerous criminals off the streets, like any city would want to, but without criminalizing people who we would rather make citizens."

Garcetti also met Wednesday with California’s top Republican and top Democrat in the House of Representatives, U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco).

Garcetti said they discussed the needs of L.A. businesses, focusing on funding for bridges, roads and other infrastructure.

"Both Leader McCarthy and Leader Pelosi expressed their interest in investing in America through an infrastructure package," Garcetti said. "I think that's really a place where mayors can stand up ... can challenge the federal government to see if they can match what we're doing, so it's nice to hear that across both sides of the aisle."

Garcetti also met with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to highlight L.A.'s transportation projects — in particular, the county's passage of Measure M.

On Thursday, before returning to L.A., Garcetti said he would sit down with U.S. National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn at the White House to lay out a way that the federal government and Congress can return more tax dollars to local governments and accelerate the construction of subways, light-rail and freeway improvements.