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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.

Ready for another year? Follow along here.

Resistance State: California in the Age of Trump


Dec. 18, 2017 5:13 pm

Jerry Brown urges a ‘no’ vote on ‘tax monstrosity’

Economy Reporter
"Painted Lady" Victorians in San Francisco. Photo via Wikimedia
“Painted Lady” Victorians in San Francisco. Photo via Wikimedia

With hours left before the House and Senate are expected to vote on a $1.5 trillion tax overhaul, Gov. Jerry Brown is rallying Californians to call on their Republican representatives to vote No on a “tax monstrosity.”

The Democratic governor posted a 1-minute message on Monday morning saying the plan will increase the national debt and gives tax breaks to corporations on the backs of states such as California that voted against President Trump. Statewide, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton received more than 4.2 million votes than Trump—a nearly two to one margin.

Here’s the full transcript:

Hi, I’m Governor Jerry Brown.

My message is real simple: The current tax bill in Congress is bad – it’s bad for you and it’s bad for America.

It’s never good to have one party vote one way and the other party vote 100 percent the other way – that’s dividing America at a time when we need unity.

Secondly, it’s going to increase our national debt by more than a trillion dollars. We’re going to have to pay for that for decades to come. It’s not economically healthy, it doesn’t make America strong.

You know what it really does, it gives massive tax breaks to corporations that are flush with billions and billions of dollars.And who’s going to pay for that? People who live in states that voted against Donald Trump. That’s not fair. That’s not treating America as one nation, indivisible, with liberty for all of us.

So please, call your Republican representative and tell them: “Vote no on this tax monstrosity.”

Jerry Brown on Twitter

Call your GOP representative and tell them: Vote NO on this tax monstrosity. #GOPTaxScam https://t.co/dHvgx8QWCh

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield announced last week that members of Congress have agreed to a tax plan that will “deliver higher wages, lower taxes, a simpler system, and a stronger American economy” to President Trump by Christmas.

But the plan does hit wealthy, high-tax states such as California where many middle-class families face high housing costs and rely on deducting high amounts from their state and local taxes. Despite initial plans to eliminate the State And Local Tax (SALT) deduction, the final proposal imposes a $10,000 limit on any combination of state and local taxes, including income, property and sales taxes, that can be deducted by a household.

An analysis by the progressive D.C.-think tank Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found the change would still impact more than 2 million high-earning households in California. That’s because the average deduction for state and local income taxes alone is nearly $16,000 per return.

Republicans are also lowering the deductible amount of interest paid on mortgage debt to $750,000, which the Brown administration has warned will make it harder to own a home in California. The limit under current law is $1 million.

California city officials have already criticized the bill, saying fewer deductions may force cities to cut back on police, fire, road repairs and other local public services.

“By limiting SALT, taxpayers will be faced with double taxation on hard earned incomes and cities may be forced to reduce services due to cut backs in resources,” said Carolyn Coleman, executive director of the League of California Cities. “With many California cities and residents yet to fully recover from the Great Recession, we’re disappointed that the conferees did not preserve the full SALT deduction.”

So far, only one of California’s 14 GOP House members says he’s voting against the bill because many of his constituents in the coastal communities north of San Diego will face higher tax bills under the plan. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, facing a tough re-election bid, instead took a swipe at state Democrats for “the tax factory in our State Capitol.”

Darrell Issa on Twitter

I will be voting “no” on the final tax plan. The bill agreed to in conference makes some improvements, but the changes do not go far enough to guarantee tax relief for constituents in my district. https://t.co/9SnZdF8die

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July 9, 2018 9:20 pm

California’s gone without higher ed affirmative action since 1996. Black enrollment at top UCs never recovered.

Higher Education Reporter
Royce Hall on the UCLA campus. Photo by Prayitno Photography via Flickr
Royce Hall on the UCLA campus. Photo by Prayitno Photography via Flickr

While the Trump administration caused a stir last week when it reversed Obama-era policies encouraging universities to consider racial diversity in admissions, reaction in California was muted. That’s because California’s public universities have been banned from using race in admissions decisions since voters passed Proposition 209 in 1996.

The percentage of African-American, Latino and Native American freshmen enrolling at the University of California dropped sharply after the proposition went into effect, especially at UC’s most selective campuses, Berkeley and UCLA.

Just as striking was the impact on applications—fewer students in those groups were bothering to even apply, a university report found.

“I offer California as a cautionary tale to the rest of the nation,” then-UC President Richard Atkinson wrote in a 2003 Washington Post op-ed. “Our experience to date shows that if race cannot be factored into admissions decisions at all, the ethnic diversity of an elite public institution such as the University of California may fall well behind that of the state it serves.”

Latino enrollment has since rebounded at UC Berkeley and UCLA, due in part to demographic changes in the state. (More than half of California’s public high school graduates are Latino.) But it’s still not proportional to that group’s share of the state population.

Meanwhile, black student enrollment at those campuses never recovered. More than 6 percent of incoming UC Berkeley freshmen were African-American in 1995. In 2017, less than 3 percent were.

Four years ago, the Legislature considered asking voters to overturn just part of Prop. 209, but abandoned the idea after several Asian-American groups joined Republicans in opposing it, and waged vigorous protests against it. They argued that in California, re-instating affirmative action provisions in state university admissions would disadvantage Asian-Americans, who make up a plurality of the student body at some UC campuses.

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July 5, 2018 1:58 pm

Judge rules against Trump, for California sanctuary laws—with one exception

Contributing Writer
Supporters of California's sanctuary laws demonstrate at the federal courthouse in Sacramento. Photo by Robbie Short for CALmatters
Supporters of California’s sanctuary laws demonstrate at the federal courthouse in Sacramento. Photo by Robbie Short for CALmatters

A federal judge today ruled against the Trump administration’s attempt to immediately halt California’s so-called sanctuary laws—with one exception affecting employers.

Judge John Mendez, in U.S. District Court in Sacramento, denied a request by the federal Department of Justice for a preliminary injunction against California laws that limit cooperation with immigration enforcement officials.

The centerpiece of the three laws stands. It doesn’t literally make California a “sanctuary” for immigrants, but does place limits on the level of work state and local government officials can do to expedite ICE enforcement. A second law places limits on expansion of detention facilities in California, and requires inspection of those facilities by the state.

The judge did, however, grant the federal government’s request to block full enforcement by California of the third law, which said the state can fine employers for giving access to immigration agents without notifying employees first. Under the ruling, employers can still warn employees of impending ICE compliance checks, but will not face state fines if they allow federal agents to enter workplaces without a warrant. State Attorney General Xavier Becerra had announced in January that his office would go after employers who share information about workers in contradiction of the new law and they could face prosecution, including fines of up to $10,000. This ruling puts a damper on that effort.

Judge Mendez’s ruling seemed sympathetic to business owners caught between federal and state authorities. Owners in immigrant-heavy industries, such as hospitality and agriculture, say they’ve been caught between the federal escalation of anti-immigration efforts and the sanctuary laws; they haven’t known which to follow.

The Trump administration had sued California in March over all three laws that took effect Jan. 1. They’re intended to protect undocumented immigrants from being set on a path to deportation after interactions with local police, unless they have committed a serious or violent crime. The U.S. Department of Justice says the statutes are unconstitutional.

Becerra contends the laws do not conflict with the U.S. Constitution but, rather, act in concert with it. Not everyone in California agrees.

Dozens of local governments say the feds are right and have rebelled by passing resolutions against the sanctuary policy, signing onto the federal lawsuit or suing the state directly. The city council in the small Southern California city of Los Alamitos voted not to comply.

In today’s ruling for California, Judge Mendez said the Trump administration failed to confront California’s primary concern: that total state cooperation with federal immigration enforcement would make Californians not more safe, but less. “The historic police powers of the State include the suppression of violent crime and preservation of community safety,” the judge wrote, going on to add that the “ebb of tensions between communities and the police underscores the delicate nature of this relationship. Even perceived collaboration with immigration enforcement could upset the balance California aims to achieve.”

The overall ruling was a big victory for California, according to University of South California law professor Jean Reisz, who said even the small exception the judge granted to the feds was a sign that the California laws likely will survive the federal challenge.

Other recent rulings that went the federal government’s way, such as U.S. Supreme Court approval of the Trump administration’s travel ban, “were more about states interfering and imposing themselves in a federal arena,” Reisz said. Likewise, California’s bid to impose fines on business owners who want to honor federal agents’ requests to enter workplaces without a warrant was construed by Judge Mendez as state interference. But Reisz noted that’s not the case with California’s centerpiece sanctuary law—the one that has sparked so much controversy.

When state officials decline to provide a release date or a home address to immigration officials, she said, that isn’t “imposing” on federal law: “The distinction is: California is stepping aside, it’s not getting in ICE’s way. I mean, stepping aside is not helping—but is that interfering?”

Mendez cautioned that the debate is not over with this ruling.

“There is no place for politics in our judicial system, and this one opinion will neither define nor solve the complicated immigration issues currently facing our Nation,” he wrote. He added that he had reached his decision without concern for political consequences, a luxury the other two branches of government lack. “But if there is going to be a long-term solution to the problems our country faces with respect to immigration policy, it can only come from our legislative and executive branches. It cannot and will not come from piecemeal opinions issued by the judicial branch.”

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June 26, 2018 6:55 pm

Executive order or not, California sues over family separations

Contributing Writer
A guard escorts an immigrant detainee at the Adelanto Detention Facility, the largest Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in California.

Yes, California is suing the Trump administration again—co-leading a coalition of 17 state attorneys general who are contesting the “zero-tolerance” practice of separating young children from their undocumented parents at the border.

But wasn’t it just one week ago that Trump signed an executive order to reverse that practice? Why sue now?

Among the reasons: The executive order did not require that roughly 2,300 children be returned to their parents, and it did not directly state the practice will end.

“President Trump’s Executive Order says nothing about reuniting families, has no impact on the thousands of families who have already been traumatized, and is so vague and equivocal that it is unclear when or if any changes will actually be made,” said the joint statement released today by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and leaders from the other states and the District of Columbia.

And in a separate case, a federal judge in San Diego later in the day issued a preliminary junction ordering the Trump administration to reunite any of the affected families within at least 30 days. In that case, brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, the judge rebuked  the administration’s policy. He noted that “the facts set forth before the court portray reactive governance — responses to address a chaotic circumstance of the government’s own making. They belie measured and ordered governance, which is central to the concept of due process enshrined in our Constitution.”

Niels Frenzen, a USC professor specializing in immigration law, said the main issue with the executive order the president signed June 10 is that it’s not a definitive order.

“It doesn’t actually prohibit separation,” Frenzen said. “It has a number of exceptions, so you could still have families separated. And of course, the children who have already been separated from their parents, that’s a big problem.”

Federal officials have promised that any parents who agree to be deported will get their children back.

The U.S. Justice Department argued in court that its reunification procedures should be given time to work, and that they were necessary to enforce immigration law and protect children from endangerment by smugglers or by parents risking their safety by bringing them into the country illegally. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said it had a process “to ensure that family members know the location of their children and have regular communication after separation to ensure that those adults who are subject to removal are reunited with their children for the purposes of removal.”

But Alex Azar, head of the federal Health and Human Services agency in charge of the children, said parents who insisted on filing a claim for asylum would remain in detention—and since there’s a 20-day limit for children’s detention, they couldn’t stay with their parents.

That didn’t sit well with California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein: “The administration is holding children hostage to push parents to drop their asylum claims,” she said in a tweet.

There’s not much California can directly do about it, Frenzen said, outside of pursuing legal action.

One California law passed last year requires state inspections of all non-citizen detention centers—but that law could not include federal facilities. Likely as a result, federal officials chose to detain undocumented immigrants in California in the medium-security federal penitentiary in Victorville to detain immigrants in California, Frenzen said. That law also restricts expansion of city and county detention centers, but has no jurisdiction over private, for-profit facilities, so he doesn’t expect federal officials to reach the limits of detention capacity in the long term.

Frenzen said it’s against international law to deter asylum seekers, and it’s also a violation of U.S. immigration law, “because people do have a right to present themselves and seek asylum at a border crossing.”

Members of the Trump administration have defended their approach. The president himself said today that he has inherited the worst immigration system in the world. And as critics have ratcheted up their condemnation, his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, fired back.

Addressing the conservative Criminal Justice Legal Foundation today in downtown Los Angeles, Sessions had plenty to say about the protesters gathered outside the hotel, and about California lawmakers.

“The rhetoric we hear from the other side on this issue—as on so many others—has become radicalized,” he said. “We hear views on television today that are on the lunatic fringe, frankly.”

California’s Democratic Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon tweeted that he wouldn’t keep donations from a company that runs for-profit detention centers in California: “Upon learning the role that Core Civic is playing in the detention of children separated from their parents by ICE, I directed my campaign to donate any donations I received from Core Civic to the Anti-Recidivism Coalition.”

Recipients of the company’s donation include the Democratic Party, candidate for governor Gavin Newsom and many other politicians.

Learn about all of California lawsuits against the Trump administration with our tracking tool. 

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