Donald Trump

Officials Sympathetic to Undocumented Seek to Allay Post-Election Fears

California is home to more than two million undocumented immigrants as of 2013, according to a non-profit, non-partisan think tank

Life for the undocumented has always carried a level of risk and uncertainty. But now the election of Donald Trump to the presidency, after a campaign pledging mass deportation, has elevated their concern.

"It means fear. It means careful," said Maru Galvan, who remains undocumented 16 years after she and her husband immigrated to California from Mexico, raising two children and opening a carpentry shop. "We have to be more careful."

Since the election, there have been cases of undocumented workers hesitant to go to their job, and children of undocumented parents expressing fear of going to school, according to immigrant rights advocates. Some expressed concern that some who denounce the undocumented will be emboldened.

"They think they have the right now to be violent, more racist," Galvan said.

California is home to more than two million undocumented immigrants according to the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC).

The undocumented population of Los Angeles County has been estimated as high as 800,000, or nearly 12 percent of the county's 10 million residents. Undocumented immigrants live in every county of the state with 170,000 estimated in San Diego County, according to the PPIC.

The presence of undocumented immigrants has been a divisive issue for decades, with advocates for strict enforcement of immigration law insisting that those who entered the U.S. unlawfully simply have no legal right to stay.

Supporters of extending rights to those without papers, including elected officials from the city, county and school district, came together in a coalition Thursday at Los Angeles City Hall. They offered reassurance to the undocumented that local government is not in sync with the policy positions and comments of the President-elect during his campaign -- creating a deportation force, building a wall along America's southern border, and requiring Mexico to pay for it.

"California is unlike the rest of the country," said Hilda Solis, a member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

"We want people in the community to be calm and continue their daily lives," said Gil Cedillo, Los Angeles city councilman for the first district, which has a predominantly Latino population.

"This city, this police department, will not cooperate with immigration," said Cedillo, referring to department policies not to inquire about immigration status in the course of responding to calls for service, nor to permit federal immigration enforcement officials to question people under their watch in jail.

"Nothing has changed in LAPD polices," said Deputy Chief Robert Arcos.

Los Angeles designated itself a sanctuary city decades ago, but some have expressed concern that under the incoming administration in Washington, federal funding to the city could be cut if it does not comply with immigration law.

U.S. Senator-elect Kamala Harris offered her continued support for providing services to the undocumented during a noon hour visit to the office of the Coalition for Humane Immigration Reform of Los Angeles (CHIRLA).

"At this point in time we are all being challenged to fight for our ideals," said Harris. She said she will join the push for the comprehensive immigration form that the Obama Administration has sought, but acknowledged the decreasing likelihood with Trump's presidency and Republicans holding a majority in both houses of Congress.

Since 2012, an executive order by President Obama known as DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) has offered permits to stay that are renewable every two years. 

"My main concern is the children. They have a lot of fear," said Vicky Cerpa, a CHIRLA volunteer who herself went a decade undocumented. She obtained legal residency through the amnesty granted by the the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, signed by then-President Ronald Reagan.

"You have scared children," said Steve Zimmer, board president of the Los Angeles Unified School District, directing his comments to President-elect Trump. "One of most important things you can do is make sure that children who have qualified for DACA know that they are safe and their status is secure."

Opponents of Trump's announced crackdown on illegal immigration expressed the belief that as president he will find the wall and mass deportation not feasible. Other Trump critics said the emphasis should be on, not reassurance, but a call for action.

"Our message to the community: don't mourn -- organize," said Nativo Lopez of Hermandad Mexicana, speaking with the coalition in city hall. "Yes my message is a tad different from the group here. Be concerned. Be alarmed. Rise and organize to defend your families. That is your God-given right," Lopez said.

"The struggle is just beginning," said Cerpa, citing the impact of the election. "It didn't end. It's just beginning."

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