Resistance State: California in the Age of Trump
Between Sacramento and Washington D.C. sits the rest of the country, and a chasm. On immigration and taxes, guns and healthcare, cannabis and climate change, California is the federal government’s equal and opposite reaction. One year into President Trump’s first term, the push and pull continues—playing out under the Capitol dome, in the courts and on Twitter.
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California’s “sanctuary state” bill now has the backing of the governor after the measure’s author agreed to broaden the circumstances under which law enforcement could cooperate with federal immigration officials.
The bill is now expected to go before the Assembly by the end of the week, the last hurdle before landing on the governor’s desk.
Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, agreed to accept changes to the bill, expanding the number of crimes committed by undocumented immigrant that would trigger local police and sheriff’s deputies being able to interact with immigration agents. The original bill restricted law enforcement from responding to federal immigration authorities unless the feds’ requests pertained to those serving time in prison or convicted of a violent or serious felony—about 60 types of crimes. The amended version broadens that cooperation to cases in which undocumented immigrants have been convicted of any of some 800 crimes under the Trust Act—from violent felonies to lesser criminal acts.
The state’s Trust Act, approved in 2013, governs how long and when law enforcement agencies could hold an individual at the request of immigration authorities.
The bill, de León said in a statement, “continues to provide landmark protections for our undocumented community and prevents our state and local law enforcement resources from being diverted to tear families apart. California will protect our communities from the Trump administration’s radical and hateful immigration policy agenda.”
Gov. Brown had publicly expressed his concerns about the bill, saying those who commit significant crimes should not be in the U.S. In a statement today, he said the bill as amended “protects public safety and people who come to California to work hard and make this state a better place.”
The amendments to de León’s bill also would permit immigration officers to conduct interviews in jails. It also allows for transfers of individuals to immigration authorities under specific circumstances including the conviction of a crime on the Trust Act list and when the federal agency provides a judicial warrant for an individual.
De León introduced the bill shortly after President Trump took office. The president has made a crackdown on immigration one of his top priorities, promising to go after those in the country illegally and threatening local and state governments that claim sanctuary status and refuse to cooperate fully with federal officials.
Even with the concessions announced Monday, key immigrant advocates say they still support the bill.
The California Sheriff’s Association, however, continues to it despite the amendments, some suggested by the association during negotiations. “Our overarching concern remains that limiting local law enforcement’s ability to communicate and cooperate with federal law enforcement officers endangers public safety,” the association said in a statement. It also contended that the bill would keep local sheriffs from notifying immigration authorities about the pending release of repeat drunk drivers, people who assault peace officers, animal abusers and known criminal gang members arrested for misdemeanor crimes.
In a meeting about school safety and guns, President Donald Trump pivoted to some favorite targets: California and immigration. He said he might remove immigration and border officers from the Golden State and predicted that the result would be “a crime mess like you’ve never seen,” CNN and other news outlets reported today.
He mentioned gangs as a problem that the federal government was trying to address, with “no help from the state of California,” where one foreign gang establishes “franchises.”
“They’re doing a lousy management job, they have the highest taxes in the nation and they don’t know what’s happening out there,” Trump said.
Trump made his remarks in a session with state and local officials who had dealt with shootings at schools. He did not explain how he believed gangs and school shootings were related.
He went on to say, “the sanctuary city situation, the protection of these horrible criminals …. If we ever pulled our ICE out and said, ‘Hey, let California alone and let them figure it out themselves,’ in two months they’d be begging for us to come back.”
“I’m thinking about doing it,” he said, without offering details about a specific plan.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who has filed more than two dozen lawsuits against the Trump administration on a range of issues, said the state works “in concert with federal laws” and defended its pursuit of those who commit crimes.
“We’re going after drug dealers, sex traffickers. We don’t stop doing that. My division of law enforcement is doing that right now,” Becerra said in a statement. “What we won’t do is change from being focused in public safety – we’re in the business of public safety, not deportation.”
Protestors wearing dolphin, shark and polar bear costumes joined the throngs who descended on Sacramento Thursday to speak out against the Trump administration’s proposal to expand oil drilling in federal waters off the California coast.
After a rally outside the state Capitol they marched to a library a few blocks away where the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management hosted the sole public meeting on the proposal in California. The agency is holding one meeting in each coastal state.
The format frustrated some attendees. Instead of the typical government hearing where long lines of people wait to comment at a microphone, visitors were directed to mill about a large room where federal employees were stationed at about a dozen tables. They explained different aspects of the national offshore drilling program—how leases are approved, how much money it brings to the U.S. economy, how the government responds to and tries to prevent oil spills—and answered questions from the public. A table with computers and comment cards was available for visitors to formally submit comments to the government.
But environmentalists—many wearing blue shirts saying “Californians against offshore drilling”—had traveled from around the state to attend the meeting and craved an opportunity to sound off.
“That one table? For hundreds of people?” Sharolyn Hutton of Eureka said, looking at the computer table set up for public comment.
At one point a few protestors began shouting in the middle of the room, “This is ridiculous! This is shameful!”
John Romero, spokesman for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, said the format was meant to provide more meaningful dialogue between the public and the government.
A representative from the Western States Petroleum Association stopped by the meeting. He noted that Californians use almost 2 million barrels of oil each day. “We want to make sure folks understand our enormous energy consumption here,” said Bob Poole, the associations director of production.
The oil association president, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, issued a statement saying that the exploration of potential drilling sites in federal water “is the first step in helping California increase our energy security through potentially increasing our domestic energy production. Currently, we import over 1 million barrels of oil in super tankers from overseas locations each and every day.”
California’s elected officials have already made clear that they oppose more drilling off the coast and will try to block it by making it difficult to transport oil through state waters, which extend three miles off the coast. With bipartisan support the Assembly passed a resolution Thursday criticizing the Trump Administration plan and the State Lands Commission, which oversees oil drilling in state waters, sent the federal government a letter this week saying it is “vehemently opposed” to more oil and gas drilling in the Pacific ocean.
California has joined a group of states suing two federal agencies for suspending a 2015 rule that extended the definition of streams and wetlands entitled to protection under the Clean Water Act.
The “waters of the United States” rule was adopted in 2015 to better define which bodies of water are covered under federal law, both for protection against development and depletions and as a bulwark against pollution.
Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced today that he sued the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, bringing the number of suits filed by California against the Trump Administration to more than two dozen.
“The California Department of Justice will not spectate as this administration attempts to undo yet another critical environmental protection,” Becerra said in a statement. “We will do what is necessary to defend the Clean Water Rule and our right to clean water. The Rule was legally promulgated, based on science, and will help protect our precious water resources.”
The Obama-era regulation was intended to apply rigorous science to more clearly spell out which waterways were protected and to put an end to a free-for-all in which states applied differing interpretations. The new definitions included floodplains and streams that do not flow year-round.
Those rules were strenuously opposed by developers, who said they swept up much of the undeveloped land in California.
In addition to the lawsuit brought by attorneys general from 11 states, the suspension of the 2015 regulation has been challenged by a host of environmental organizations.