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L.A. Mayor: Repealing DACA Would Hurt Hurricane Harvey Recovery

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti talks during a news conference at Union Station in Los Angeles on Aug. 16, 2017. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, chairman of the Latino Alliance of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, said he is looking into ways to provide “local protection” for DREAMers from deportation if President Trump rescinds President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Garcetti also said repealing DACA would spread fear across cities such as Houston and hinder the rebuilding effort in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Trump may announce his decision on the future of the DACA program, which protects from deportation certain illegal immigrants brought to the country as children, this week or next.

“Part of inheriting a government is, yes, you have the power to repeal things, but whether you go further and actually use people’s information against them to put them in a worse position than if they had even not come out of the shadows, I think, is not only unconscionable but it is un-American. Second, you know, we’re looking at what things we can do to provide local protection to those individuals should DACA be repealed,” Garcetti said on a conference call with reporters today.

“It is a destructive force in our cities to have families waking up worried that they’re going to be separated. It’s destructive to our economies to see towns where, you know, in Los Angeles it’s about 63 percent of businesses started by immigrants. I was in New Hampshire yesterday, in Manchester, and they were saying they thought it was even higher than that in a town that has fewer immigrants than we do. This is destructive to our public safety. We want to have safe streets. We want to have strong economies and strong families,” he added.

Garcetti said the federal government lacks the “people power to be able to deport” 800,000 DACA recipients if the program is repealed.

“What it would just do is create a fear, an epidemic, I think, throughout our cites and throughout our local communities, and that’s a distraction for all of us. Could you imagine in Houston right now if that’s suddenly something that goes through, and as they try to rebuild in the coming months if that’s something Mayor Turner has to focus on instead of rebuilding his city? We see this as an unnecessary distraction, as an un-American move, and something that we would do whatever we can to protect local folks,” he said.

“We are hamstrung by what we can do formally, but I think informally we can do a lot to make sure that they are reassured that their information isn’t shared and that we make sure that we change the debate to how they can be here legally in a permanent manner,” Garcetti added.

Mayor Jorge Elorza of Providence, R.I., said Trump’s strong stance against illegal immigration has caused a “great deal of anxiety” in cities.

“We’ve seen that firsthand in our communities as mayors, and we can’t underestimate the importance of getting that reassurance to our residents that we will do what we can within our power as a city to help and protect them, so there are certain steps the cities have been taking for a while,” he said.

“For example, many of our DREAMers are simply asking for an opportunity to study, to go to college, and here in Providence we’ve offered scholarships, book scholarships, for recent high school graduates. We don’t ask questions with respect to whether you are documented or of nonimmigrant status, so there’s a great deal of reassurance we can get to the community,” he added.

Elorza encouraged mayors to use “that informal power that we have” to seek opportunities to “extend some services that we provide to all of our residents, to undocumented residents as well” that can go “a really long way to let folks know that they belong and that they are part of our community.”

Garcetti said he lacks “formal powers” to shield DREAMers from deportation if Trump repeals DACA, which was instituted by Obama via executive order.

“We don’t have formal powers to protect people against federal law – enforcement could move forward against these folks because this was deferred action, so action could be taken against them. But we do have the power to protect their information locally to make sure we are not coordinating any actions with federal agencies to go after these DREAMers,” he said. “Part of what we are doing today in strengthening our Special Order 40 is to provide those sorts of protections for these individuals.”

Special Order 40 ensure that Los Angeles Police officers don’t initiate investigations just dealing with a person’s legal status in order to make sure that communities feel comfortable interacting with police.

“There are places throughout the country that people have said would be safe spaces. Our school district has said that here in Los Angeles. We’ve said that with city facilities as well, but again, if individual immigrant agents come into certain spaces there is no way to physically keep them away,” Garcetti added. “We have just declared those areas to ‘show us you have a warrant. Show us you have a legal right to be someplace.’”

Given that some Republican mayors like Tom Tait of Anaheim, Calif., oppose repealing DACA, Garcetti hopes Congress is able to pass a legislative solution to provide legal status to DREAMers who were brought to the U.S. illegally.

“This president and this Congress controlled by Republicans really can do the right thing and make a great legacy that transcends the partisan divide today, and do what’s right for America,” he said.

Garcetti said city officials in Los Angeles want to “cooperate with the proper deportations of dangerous criminals.”

“Our police department goes through getting warrants and judge orders all the time – 20,000 to 30,000 a year,” he said. “It shouldn’t be difficult for ICE to do the same, but in general they have refused to do that.”