Hilda Solis, the Los Angeles County Supervisor for Northeast L.A., has joined Mayor Garcetti in opposing a Trump Administration proposal that would make it hard for legal immigrants to become permanent residents if they or their families receive Medicaid, federal housing aid or food stamps.
“We are doing everything possible to stop this proposed rule from being enacted,” said Ms. Solis at a recent press conference with the mayor. The effort includes a new website – lamayor.org/StrongFamiliesLA – where people can send comments to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which is in charge of shaping the Trump proposal into a federal regulation.
“I encourage everyone to voice their opposition by submitting an online comment,” said Ms. Solis.
Currently, getting a green card is tough if an immigrant receives cash from a handful of small federal programs for deeply impoverished people. The Trump proposal would make it tough for a much broader range of individuals, including working families who receive Medicaid and claim certain credits on their tax returns.
DHS has said the proposed rule would help ensure that immigrants can support themselves. That claim has been disputed by Ms. Solis, Mr. Garcetti, health experts and immigrant advocates who say that the programs targeted by the Trump proposal are part and parcel of daily life and local economies, not evidence of impoverishment or inability or unwillingness to work. In a recent letter to DHS, Mayor Garcetti pointed out that 100 million Americans – one third of the population — would not qualify as permanent residents under the Trump proposal.
Mr. Garcetti also said that the Trump proposal would be especially bad for L.A., which is home to 1.5 million immigrants. The direct effect of being turned down for a green card would be devastating enough. But the indirect effects could be even worse: If immigrants shunned federal aid out of fear it would harm their residency chances or legal status, the results would be poorer health, worse housing, increased homelessness, food insecurity and financial instability.
The economy would also suffer. Drawing on L.A. County data on enrollment in federal programs, Ms. Solis said that if one-fourth of immigrant households that use food stamps withdrew from the program, the local economy would lose $54 million a year.
DHS will accept public comments on the Trump proposal until Dec. 10. To weigh in, go to lamayor.org/StrongFamiliesLA. or to regulations.gov.
Opposition from the L.A. City Council
The L.A. City Council is also considering a resolution to oppose the Trump Administration’s proposed rule change. The resolution, authored by Councilmember Nury Martinez and seconded by NELA’s Councilmember Gil Cedillo, states that the Trump proposal would have a “devastating impact on the well-being of children and families in L.A.” and that it would “punish immigrants who … lawfully receive” vital public services.
The resolution must make its way through the committee process before it comes up for a vote by the full City Council.
Another Scene from the Battle for Immigrant Rights
Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez, of Lincoln Heights, was in the news again recently, speaking out for immigrants held in detention. Mr. Avelica is the undocumented immigrant who was arrested by immigration officials last year while dropping off his daughters at school. Footage of the arrest, taken on a cell phone by his teenage daughter, went viral, prompting nationwide interest in his case and helping to secure his release after six months of detention.
On Oct. 8, Mr. Avelica gave an interview to the L.A. Times about the conditions in the Adelanto ICE Processing Center, the detention facility in the high desert town of Adelanto where he was held. The interview came on the heels of a scathing report by federal inspectors who found dreadful health and safety violations at the facility, which is run by GEO Group, a private, for-profit prison company.
Mr. Avelica told the L.A. Times about a suicide and attempted suicides in the facility. He spoke about detainees who were enduring prolonged detentions with no end in sight and deplorable medical care. He spoke of a hunger strike in the facility to try to get better care. He told of detainees whose isolation, illness and depression were compounded by the inability to afford phone calls to their families or items at the commissary.
Mr. Avelica said he received better treatment than other detainees, but only because the staff at the facility “knew I was in the eye of the media.”
Even before the federal inspectors’ report came out, GEO was being sued by detainees in Adelanto who say they were beaten and pepper-sprayed by guards for staging a hunger strike last year, according to a recent article in the New York Times. GEO has said that the charges are completely baseless.
Private prison companies hold about 9% of the nation’s total prison population. But they hold most of the nation’s immigrant detainees.
In 2016, the Justice Department under President Obama ordered a phase out of private, for-profit prisons at the federal level because they were found to be more violent than government-run facilities. But President Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, reversed that order shortly after taking office in 2017.
The L.A.Times reported that Mr. Avelica, who is out on bond, now has a work permit. He and his wife are waiting to hear the decision on their U-visa applications, which are available to crime victims.
Mr. Avelica has lived in the United States for 25 years and has four American-born children.
T.A. Hendrickson, a native of Eagle Rock, is the editor of the Boulevard Sentinel and a former member of the Editorial Board of the New York Times.