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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

Fear that the Trump administration would make good on the presidents threats to stop payments to insurers for Obamacare has subsided, for now, after a spokesman said all August payments would be made.

The payments go to insurers to cover subsidies and out-of-pocket expenses for people enrolled in medical insurance through the Affordable Care Act.

It is estimated that the federal government will pay about $7 billion in 2017 and cover about 6 million people enrolled in the program. The funds go toward compensating insurers for providing insurance to low and moderate-income Americans and providing discounts that include co-payments and deductibles as mandated by the act. By the end of last year, 1.4 million Californians were enrolled in private insurance through Covered California, the state’s exchange that administers the Affordable Care Act.  Of those, nearly 89 percent receive federal subsidies.

The announcement is expected to help bring some stability to the markets, but experts note that the long-term prognosis is still up in the air. It’s unclear if the administration will enforce the requirement that all Americans purchase health insurance or face a fine.

Photo via Flickr

According to the Congressional Budget Office, health care insurance premiums for many Americans using Obamacare would increase 20 percent if President Trump cuts off insurer payments. Last month Trump tweeted: “If a new HealthCare Bill is not approved quickly, BAILOUTS for Insurance Companies and BAILOUTS for Members of Congress will end very soon!”

Critics of administration’s approach say Trump must commit to the program.

“This cat-and-mouse game every month has to stop,” Leslie Dach, director of the Obamacare advocacy group Protect Our Care Campaign, told CNBC. “As the nonpartisan CBO and Kaiser Family Foundation concluded in recent reports, just the threat of not making these payments has caused insurers to jack up prices next year and has injected uncertainty into the market for consumers and insurers alike.”

After the announcement that this month’s subsidies will be paid, Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander said Congress should act to ensure that the funds will be paid through next year.

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With a quarter-million Californians evacuated from their homes and wildfires so far claiming nine lives, President Donald Trump today took to Twitter and inflamed tensions—blaming California for causing the fires by mismanaging its forests and threatening to cut off federal funds.

Although he approved the state’s request for a state-of-emergency declaration—freeing up funds to help the massive firefighting effort and recovery—the president couldn’t miss the opportunity to aim a derisive shot at the nation’s largest “Resistance State.”

Donald J. Trump on Twitter

There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor. Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!

But Trump’s shot was a bit off the mark: The deadly Camp Fire is burning in parts of the Plumas National Forest. To the extent that there is mismanagement, as Trump suggests, it could be said to be the responsibility of the federal government, which oversees the lion’s share of the timberland covering the state. California owns and manages only about 2 percent of the forested acres in its boundaries.

And the Southern California blazes, the  Woolsey and Hill fires, are raging in canyons and suburban subdivisions west of Los Angeles. The fires are racing toward beaches in Malibu, nowhere near a forest, federal or otherwise.

The president’s response unleashed a flood of retorts from critics including Katy Perry, John Legend, members of Congress and everyday Californians, many of whom noted that California faces persistent drought and increasing wildfires as a consequence of climate change, which the Trump administration has largely dismissed.

The state’s governor-elect, Democrat Gavin Newsom, offered this:

Gavin Newsom on Twitter

Lives have been lost. Entire towns have been burned to the ground. Cars abandoned on the side of the road. People are being forced to flee their homes. This is not a time for partisanship. This is a time for coordinating relief and response and lifting those in need up.

While criticism abounds regarding appropriate forest thinning, controlled burns and other fire-management approaches, there are no simple solutions to the complicated management of forests.

A state commission recently reported on what it described as the neglect of the state’s forests, but apportioned blame to a broad swath of agencies.

“The president’s assertion that California’s forest management policies are to blame for catastrophic wildfire is dangerously wrong,” Brian Rice, head of the 30,000-member California Professional Firefighters said in a statement. He added “nearly 60 percent of California forests are under federal management, and another two-thirds under private control. It is the federal government that has chosen to divert resources away from forest management, not California.

“Natural disasters are not “red” or “blue”—they destroy regardless of party. Right now, families are in mourning, thousands have lost homes, and a quarter-million Americans have been forced to flee. At this desperate time, we would encourage the president to offer support in word and deed, instead of recrimination and blame.”

President Trump has made comments about withholding federal funding from California whenever state events aroused his irritation, including when protests on the UC Berkeley campus kept right-wing speakers from being heard and when California moved to become a “sanctuary state” for undocumented immigrants. But he never followed through on those threats.

And California officials are fond of pointing out that California send more money to the federal government in taxes than it received back from Washington in federal funds.

Update: For all the blowback,  the president later tweeted that he was issuing a “major disaster declaration” for California, which authorizes federal relief for these fires—adding “God Bless all of the victims and families affected.” 

Donald J. Trump on Twitter

I just approved an expedited request for a Major Disaster Declaration for the State of California. Wanted to respond quickly in order to alleviate some of the incredible suffering going on. I am with you all the way. God Bless all of the victims and families affected.

For a deeper look at the issues at stake, explore our wildfire tracker.

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Nov. 8, 2018 3:42 pm

UC urges students to file DACA renewals as appeals court rules against Trump

Higher Education Reporter
DACA recipient Flor Martinez attends a rally following President Trump’s rescindment of the program, Monday, Sept. 5, 2017, in San Jose, Calif. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

California notched another legal victory Thursday in its bid to protect undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children from deportation, as a federal appeals court agreed with the state’s attorney general and the University of California that the Trump administration cannot dismantle the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is the first federal appeals court to rule on the fate of the Obama-era program, which provides two-year permits for some 800,000 Dreamers, allowing them to work and study in the country.

About one in four Dreamers live in California, according to Attorney General Xavier Becerra. He called Thursday’s ruling “a tremendous victory for everyone who is a believer in the American dream.”

The ruling upholds an injunction filed by a federal district court in January preventing Trump from ending DACA. Justice Department lawyers had argued that President Obama illegally overstepped his authority when creating the program, and that Congress should decide Dreamers’ fate.

But the appeals court found that the executive branch has long used deferred action for certain groups of immigrants in order to better manage scarce enforcement resources. Programs like DACA “enable DHS to devote much-needed resources to enforcement priorities such as threats to national security, rather than blameless and economically productive young people with clean criminal records,” the judges wrote.

The Trump administration will likely appeal the case to the Supreme Court. A new Democratic majority in the House of Representatives could also try to push legislation granting Dreamers legal status.

Barely a week after tweeting out a xenophobic midterm campaign ad, President Trump indicated at a press conference Wednesday that he was still open to negotiating with Democrats on DACA. “I think we could really do something having to do with DACA,” he said. “We’ll see how it works out at the Supreme Court.”

Meanwhile, UC tweeted out a message Thursday urging students who already have DACA status to renew it. The program is not accepting new applications but is processing renewals.

Maria Blanco, the director of the university’s Immigrant Legal Services Center, said her office had helped students file between 700 and 800 renewal applications since the lower court’s injunction in January. An estimated 5,000 UC students participate in the program.

Blanco said that while the ruling won’t change the advice she gives students, the fact that UC was the lead plaintiff in the case, and the subsequent legal victories, have encouraged them.

“Every time the program is not struck down, there’s a little bit of hope that it might survive overall,” she said.

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Speaking against the backdrop of a busy morning freeway, California officials this morning reaffirmed their opposition to a Trump administration proposal to roll back automobile fuel efficiency standards—noting the state had just filed 415 pages of comment strenuously objecting to the federal plan.

That plan would unravel two instruments critical to California’s climate change policies: The previously-agreed upon benchmarks for car makers to roll out vehicles that consume less gas, and the legal right of the state to set its own auto emissions standards.

The federal rules change, which is not yet finalized, calls for freezing fuel-efficiency standards in 2020 at an average 35 miles per gallon. California had led negotiations that established more ambitious cuts and those rules were formalized in the waning days of the Obama administration.

The officials—Gov. Jerry Brown, Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Air Board chairwoman Mary Nichols—were equally dismissive of the decision to eliminate California’s longstanding waiver, which allows state officials to set car emissions standards that are more stringent that those imposed by federal regulators.

Nichols provided the morning’s most comprehensive takedown of the federal government’s justification for changing course, saying, “What they are proposing not only doesn’t make sense from its own logic, it’s poorly argued, poorly organized, not based in fact and illegal.”

In announcing the rules changes, the federal Environmental Protection Administration and the National Highway Transportation Administration argued that, among other things, the lighter vehicles required to meet the fuel standards would make American drivers less safe. That analysis has been widely criticized, and runs counter to California’s own review.

Gov. Brown noted that even as American automobile manufacturers are seeking to arrest the steady march toward cleaner cars, China is growing its market for electric cars and battery technology. He said that the administration’s policy will negatively impact “jobs and American power in the world.”

Brown chided Trump for rollbacks that he said “jeopardizes the health of millions and will cost billions at the pump. Wrong way to go Donald. Get with it. Bad.”

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Sept. 28, 2018 4:40 pm

Judge rules Huntington Beach doesn’t need to obey ‘sanctuary law’

Contributing Writer
An Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer handcuffs an adult male.
An Orange County lawsuit has challenged California’s sanctuary state laws.

An Orange County Superior Court judge has ruled that California’s “sanctuary state law” conflicts with Huntington Beach’s rights as a charter city, throwing some protections for undocumented immigrants into question in 120 cities throughout the state.

Senate Bill 54 or the California Values Act, authored by state Sen. Kevin de León, a Los Angeles Democrat who is challenging incumbent U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, doesn’t actually make California a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants. Rather, it puts limits on the amount of work state and local government officials can do to expedite ICE enforcement.

Though many California cities support the law, arguing it makes immigrant communities less afraid to report crimes and promotes trust in local institutions, dozens of other municipalities have adopted resolutions opposing it in principle. Huntington Beach, in coastal Orange County, was the first to take its challenge to court.

Judge James Crandall did not issue a legal opinion about the case, but granted a writ of mandate, ruling that the state cannot enforce its sanctuary law there, based on Huntington Beach’s status as a charter city.

Charter cities are organized under their own municipal codes, rather than under the state’s general law. One hundred twenty-one of California’s 482 cities share the designation, including Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Jose, San Diego and San Francisco.

Lawyers for Huntington Beach argued that the state sanctuary law intruded on the city’s local control.

“Huntington Beach is saying, ‘If we want to volunteer to go above and beyond to help immigration officials, we should be able to do that.’ Under SB 54 they can’t,” said immigration law expert Jean Reisz at University of Southern California’s Gould School of Law.

It’s unclear how the judge’s decision will affect other charter cities, or whether it will inspire more legal opposition.

“It certainly could apply to all of them, but this is an injunction to keep the state from enforcing this law against Huntington Beach, not all charter cities,” Reisz said.

The state Attorney General’s office is expected to appeal.

“Preserving the safety and constitutional rights of all our people is a statewide imperative which cannot be undermined by contrary local rules,” state Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in an email. “We will continue working to ensure that our values and laws like the California Values Act are upheld throughout our state.”

The ruling is separate from the federal lawsuit challenge filed last year by the Department of Justice to the sanctuary laws, which are actually made up of three pieces of legislation. A U.S. District Judge struck down one of the three, pertaining to business owners’ interactions with immigration authorities, but upheld the other two, including SB 54.

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Sept. 12, 2018 6:58 pm

Judge sides with California, faults DeVos for delaying student borrower protection

Higher Education Reporter
U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos
U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, photo via Wikimedia Commons

A federal judge ruled Wednesday that the U.S. Department of Education’s delay of rules meant to protect student loan borrowers from predatory practices was “arbitrary and capricious,” granting a legal victory to the state of California and borrowers who say their colleges defrauded them.

If upheld, the ruling could make it easier for students like the tens of thousands of Californians left in the lurch when for-profit chain Corinthian Colleges abruptly closed its doors to recoup their investments.

Corinthian’s 2015 collapse prompted the Obama Administration to issue new rules the following year allowing groups of students to apply for federal loan forgiveness en masse if their college closed, misled them or broke the law. The so-called “borrower defense rules” were hailed by consumer advocates and criticized by representatives of the for-profit college industry, who said they would put small vocational schools out of business.

The Trump administration has repeatedly pushed back implementation of the rules, and in August proposed a new plan that would make each individual borrower prove that their college knowingly lied to them in order to have loans discharged.

But Judge Randolph S. Moss agreed with the complaint filed by a pair of student borrowers, joined by the attorney generals of 19 states including California, that the department illegally “failed to offer a reasoned basis” for the shift in policy. The two sides are scheduled to meet in court Friday to discuss remedies in the case.

 “This is a big win for students in California and the nation who were cheated of a quality education,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who has filed multiple lawsuits on behalf of student loan borrowers.

The Department of Education did not reply to requests for comment late today.

Track all of California’s lawsuits against the Trump administration here.

Want to submit a reader reaction? You can find our submission guidelines here. Please contact Dan Morain with any questions, [email protected], (916) 201.6281.

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Aug. 30, 2018 3:28 pm

California poised to offer strongest net neutrality protection in the country

Contributing Writer
Sen. Scott Wiener visits the Assembly floor during the last week of 2018 legislative session. Photo by Antoinette Siu for CALmatters

California’s push to pass the nation’s strongest net neutrality protections—and bring back Obama-era rules undone by the Trump administration—advanced today, one step in a high-stakes tech battle that’s being waged from here to Washington.

The bill by Democratic Sens. Scott Wiener and Kevin de Léon survived intense negotiations to pass the Democratic-controlled Assembly with overwhelming support by a vote of 61 to 18. It goes back to the Senate for a final vote before the legislative session ends Friday. If passed, it would prohibit internet service providers from slowing or speeding content based on preference or extra payment.

“The core premise of net neutrality is that we get to decide where we go on the internet, as opposed to telecom and cable companies telling us where to go,” Wiener said in a statement.

SB 822 aims to protect an open internet by replacing the Trump administration’s repeal of federal protections established during the Obama administration in 2015. It is considered the strongest set of net neutrality provisions since Obama’s were rolled back in June, and would be enforced by California’s attorney general.  

Wiener and de Léon’s proposal would ban internet companies from charging businesses access fees in order to reach its online customers. It would also prohibit “zero rating,” a practice in which providers charge consumers for accessing their competitors’ content, but provide a free data incentive for accessing their own content.

Republican opponents of the bill slammed it as an overreach that meddles with a free market, creates a regulatory patchwork and invites litigation. Advocates, meanwhile, argued that such protections prevent internet service providers, such as AT&T and Comcast, from throttling internet speeds and creating so-called “fast lane” access.

Net neutrality proponents include not just technology companies such as Google parent Alphabet Inc. and Facebook, but also the Writers Guild of America and the American Civil Liberties Union.

The bill garnered national attention as it moved through the Legislature earlier this year. Facing strong opposition from internet companies and Republican legislators, Democrats anticipated a legal challenge as the state measure advanced.

In committee, the bill was heavily amended by Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, a Los Angeles Democrat. In response, Wiener almost withdrew his “hijacked” bill, which he said had been stripped of all its key protections.

But in July, the bill’s original provisions were restored and lawmakers reached an agreement to advance it together. Santiago eventually came around and joined as principal coauthor.

“This bill is about value,” Santiago said. “The question before us is, do you believe in a free and open internet?”

On the floor, Republican leaders charged regulation should be left to the feds. Assemblyman Jim Patterson, a Fresno Republican, said the issue will go straight to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the state will lose. Other opponents argued it will chill the tech industry and result in a less robust market for consumers.

“The worst possible thing we can do is to create 50 different state FCCs,” Patterson argued. “If you are really interested, the place to have this fleshed out is the federal level with federal elections and accountability. It takes several steps way too far.”

“You’re wading into an area where you have no business in,” echoed Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez, a Lake Elsinore Republican. “This is embarrassing.”

Lobbying was intense as Thursday’s vote neared. A group affiliated to AT&T was reportedly using robocalls to send out automated messages claiming the law would raise consumer cell phone bills. Earlier this month, Verizon was widely criticized for allegedly throttling data speeds for the Santa Clara County Fire Department during the Mendocino Complex fire, a complaint the company denied.

Ryan Singel, media and strategy fellow at Stanford University’s Center for Internet and Society, says public pressure clearly helped secure Assembly approval.

“While it seems like getting net neutrality passed in California should be simple, the reality is that AT&T is incredibly powerful in California’s legislature—which was made clear when the bill was gutted in committee in June,” Singel said in an email.

In recent months, more than 20 states have introduced bills aiming to restore the federal net neutrality protections. Washington and Oregon have already passed legislation.

Meanwhile, the fight on the federal front is far from over. Tech groups including Amazon, Facebook and the Internet Association this month filed briefs with the federal appeals court supporting a lawsuit against the Federal Communications Commission to bring back net neutrality.

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Aug. 8, 2018 5:10 pm

Becerra requests Trump administration emails, internal records about immigration crackdown

Audience Engagement Intern
An Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer handcuffs an adult male.
An Orange County lawsuit has challenged California’s sanctuary state laws.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed a federal records request today for information about the impact of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy on immigrant children’s mental and physical wellbeing.

The Freedom of Information Act request seeks all records related to the creation of the policy and the federal government’s determination of its ability to care for the influx of children detained as a result of the policy.

The request follows a hearing last week in which federal health official Jonathan White said he warned the Trump administration of potential negative effects children could suffer if they were parted from their undocumented immigrant parents. “Separation of children from their parents entails significant harm to children,” said White. “There’s no question that separation of children from parents entails significant potential for traumatic psychological injury to the child.”

Last week’s Congressional hearing shows that this President and his Administration received warnings about the impacts of the family separation policy and still acted,” said Becerra in a press release. “We must have answers and accountability. We all deserve to know what went into the federal government’s inconceivable decision to separate thousands of children from their families.”

Becerra’s request targeted the Justice, Homeland Security and Health and Human Services departments, and included disclosure of senior staff communications—including memorandums, emails, and notes of meetings or calls regarding the “zero tolerance” policy. He specifically is pursuing internal communications from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and the current and former secretaries of Health and Human Services.

President Trump has defended the policy as necessary to stem what he has characterized as a host of societal ills resulting from illegal immigration. “It’s about keeping families together, while at the same time, being sure that we have a very powerful, very strong border,” he said in a statement.

Becerra co-leads a coalition of 18 attorneys general that sued President Trump in June over the “zero tolerance” policy. He has sued the Trump administration 39 times times since March 2017.

Note: This post has been revised to correct the number of lawsuits Becerra has filed against the Trump administration.

Want to submit a reader reaction? You can find our submission guidelines here. Please contact Dan Morain with any questions, [email protected], (916) 201.6281.

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Aug. 5, 2018 6:00 pm

California lawmakers move against ‘junk’ health insurance

Contributing Writer
Image via Pixabay
Image via Pixabay

Update: The Legislature passed, and Gov. Jerry Brown signed, SB 910.

Legislators in California appear ready to counter a new Trump administration move, this time on health insurance.

Last week, federal officials announced they would expand health insurers’ ability to sell so-called skinny insurance plans, short-term policies that offer only bare-bones benefits. Those plans also are called “junk” plans because of the dearth of conditions and ailments they cover—for instance, most don’t cover maternity care or cancer treatment, and some have high deductibles or exclude pre-existing conditions.

Less expensive because of the “skinny” coverage, the plans were launched under the Obama administration as a bridge to Affordable Care Act plans. They were limited to three months and could not be renewed.

The new federal rules allow low-benefit plans that don’t comply with ACA standards to last a year and be renewed for up to three years.

A proposal making its way through California’s Legislature, which returns from summer recess tomorrow, would ban such insurance in California.

SB 910, by Democratic Sen. Ed Hernandez of Azusa, would outlaw issuance or renewal of any health plan shorter than 12 months in duration. ACA standards require longer-term insurance, bar denial of coverage based on pre-existing conditions and mandate 10 essential health benefits.

The short-term, low-benefit plans are fine as long as you stay well, Hernandez said. But people with those plans who get sick often discover they have to pay for treatment and medication themselves. Basically, he said, that’s not health care coverage.

“California needs to ban junk health insurance policies in our state, not only because they are an affront to the basic principles of the Affordable Care Act, but also because they are dangerous and deceiving,” Hernandez said by email Friday.

Dozens of Republican legislators have either voted No on his bill or abstained, but did not articulate that opposition in hearings. Attempts to contact several of them were unsuccessful Friday.

One health care expert said he had hoped the idea of limited-benefit plans had been put to rest, after the years of policy discussion before and during setup of the Affordable Care Act.

“There are significant costs to having skinny plans,” said Micah Weinberg, president of the Bay Area Council’s Economic Institute, a San Francisco-based business think tank. “People still get medical care, even if it’s not covered, so the hospitals or the state end up holding the bag.”

That means taxpayers are basically subsidizing people on limited-benefit plans, he said.

“It isn’t actually insurance,” Weinberg said. “It provides a sense that you’re insured, but if you need it, you don’t really have it.”

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Aug. 1, 2018 2:53 pm

Trump can’t withhold federal money from ‘sanctuary’ cities, court rules

Editorial Intern
Marchers in Sacramento protest Trump administration immigration policies. Photo by Trevor Eischen for CALmatters
Marchers in Sacramento protest Trump administration immigration policies. Photo by Trevor Eischen for CALmatters

A federal appeals court ruled today that President Trump does not have the authority to withhold federal funding from so-called sanctuary cities and counties.

Upholding a lower court decision, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said the power to allocate federal funding belongs to Congress: “The Executive Branch may not refuse to disperse the federal grants in question without congressional authorization.”

Last year, U.S. District Judge William H. Orrick III in San Francisco issued a national injunction against an executive order that Trump issued five days into his presidency. The president’s order directed that federal monies be withheld from “sanctuary” jurisdictions such as San Francisco.

San Francisco and the County of Santa Clara, which have declared themselves sanctuary jurisdictions, limiting cooperation with federal immigration authorities, sued the Trump administration.

Orrick said Trump’s order was unconstitutional, violating the Separation of Powers doctrine and the Fifth and Tenth amendments.

Today, the 9th Circuit panel of judges agreed but removed his injunction, except in California, citing a lack of evidence to keep it in place elsewhere and returning it for reconsideration. The judges said California, specifically San Francisco and Santa Clara counties, are “likely targets” of Trump’s order and retained it for the state.

The federal Justice Department denounced the decision on funding as “a victory for criminal aliens in California.” The state “will protect them from federal immigration officers whose job it is to hold them accountable and remove them from the country,” spokesman Devin O’Malley said in a written statement.

California laws limiting cooperation with federal immigration agents went into effect this year. Dozens of local governments have dissented, suing the state, joining a federal lawsuit against the policy or taking other actions.

Want to submit a reader reaction? You can find our submission guidelines here. Please contact Dan Morain with any questions, [email protected], (916) 201.6281.

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July 30, 2018 6:23 pm

California considers cutting ties to firms carrying out Trump’s immigration policies

Editorial Intern
Protesters in Sacramento condemned the Trump administration for separating children from their parents at the border. Photo by Robbie Short for CALmatters
Protesters in Sacramento condemned the Trump administration for separating children from their parents at the border. Photo by Robbie Short for CALmatters

Although California can’t do much to block the Trump administration’s controversial immigration policies, opponents in the “Resistance State” keep finding ways to chip away at their foundations.

The latest: pushing the state and its Democratic leaders to cancel business deals with, investments in, and campaign donations from private companies with federal immigration contracts.

  • A group of K-12 teachers is urging their retirement system to divest from GEO Group, CoreCivic and General Dynamics.
  • Some University of California students and workers are pressing UC to sever ties with General Dynamics Information Technology. The company helps the UC system administer a placement test for incoming first-year students.
  • Politicians and the state Democratic Party are shedding donations from CoreCivic, operator of private prisons and detention facilities.

“I don’t think we should profit off of the lives of other people,” said Adrianna Betti, one of hundreds of teachers who are urging  CalSTRS, the organization responsible for the pensions of California K-12 teachers, to divest from the private prison companies. “The concept that I’m going to retire off of this type of money, it bothers me immensely.”

Betti told a recent CalSTRS investment meeting that the organization needs to provide more transparency about its portfolio and realize they are making moral choices with their dollars.

“Nobody with a moral lens would have made this decision ever,” she said.

Amid public outcry last month, President Donald Trump backed off of his initial policy of separating undocumented parents from their children at the border.  “So we’re keeping families together, and this will solve that problem,” he said. “At the same time, we are keeping a very powerful border and it continues to be a zero-tolerance. We have zero tolerance for people that enter our country illegally.”

Over 1,800 children have been reunited with family after being separated at the border, but over 700 still remain separated—and some of those may be in California.

The state—which Trump branded “out of control” in its immigration defiance—passed a trio of  laws last year designed to make California a “sanctuary state” for undocumented immigrants who don’t commit serious crimes. Although the Trump administration sued to have the laws overturned, it has not yet been successful.

But the emotional family separations posed a particular frustration in Democrat-dominated California. Attorney General Xavier Becerra joined 17 other states in contesting the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy last month, arguing in the complaint that family separation is causing severe trauma that state resources will be strained to address.

The federal government “does have the right to decide how to conduct immigration processes. They’ve done a very poor job obviously. Very harshly,” Becerra said on KQED earlier this month. “We are more limited there in what we can do as far as allowing these kids to be free.”

One move the state could make: divestment. It’s a tactic that various activists have proposed against gun manufacturers, tobacco companies and fossil fuel firms. Successes include the UC divestment effort in the 1980s against South Africa, which Nelson Mandela credited with helping bring an end to the racist apartheid regime.

CalSTRS said it is determining potential risk factors the private prison companies may pose to pensions. At its meeting, investment committee chairman Harry Keiley said he’s asked the chief investment officer to update the board on the issue by September.

CoreCivic said in a statement that none of its facilities provide housing for children who aren’t under the supervision of a parent, adding, “We also do not enforce immigration laws or policies or have any say whatsoever in an individual’s deportation or release.”

“We are proud that for over the past 30 years we have assisted both Democrat and Republican administrations across the country as they address a myriad of public policy challenges,” said company spokeswoman Amanda Gilchrist. “CoreCivic has a strong commitment to caring for each person respectfully and humanely.”

Other educators are urging the UC system to sever ties with General Dynamics Information Technology. The University Council-AFT, the labor union that represents librarians, lecturers and other university faculty members, sent such a letter to UC president Janet Napolitano in June, who received a similar letter from the Council of UC Faculty Associations, the umbrella organization that represents the different faculty associations at each campus.

The University of California Student Association, an organization that represents students across UC campuses is also pressing the UC system to end its contract. “To work with a company actively taking part in the state sanctioned violence of separating families seeking asylum, and profiting from it is to be complicit in the inhumanity of their actions,” the association said in a letter to the president.

“This is still happening and they’re not doing as much as they could,” said Stephanie Luna-Lopez, a third-year student at UC Berkeley and associate chief of community development for the Associated Students University of California, the student association for UC Berkeley. “We actually cannot do anything because it’s out of our control.”

Napolitano contends that UC has contracted with the company for years, that it assured her they were providing case work for unaccompanied minors to facilitate reuniting families, and that  breaking ties would be “detrimental” and “disruptive.”

(Although she presided over significant deportations as head of Homeland Security in the Obama administration, Napolitano has denounced Trump’s separation policy.)

General Dynamics Information Technology has worked with the Office of Refugee Resettlement since 2000, providing casework support for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It says it has no role in the family separation policy, but facilitates reunifications.

Democratic legislators and the Democratic Party have, since Jan. 1 of 2017, collected some $250,000 from private prison companies that incarcerate undocumented immigrants. Now they’re distancing themselves.

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon tweeted last month he would donate campaign money received from CoreCivic to the Anti-Recidivism Coalition, which works with formerly incarcerated people to reform the justice system.

And after CALmatters noted that Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom received private prison money in his campaign for governor, an aide said  Newsom donated $5,000 to the National Domestic Workers Alliance’s Families Belong Together project, which protests Trump’s immigration policies.

The California Democratic Party has also announced it will no longer accept contributions from organizations that run private prisons or other incarceration services.

“The private prison system represents so much of what is wrong with our criminal justice system,” said CDP chair Eric C. Bauman in a statement. “Accepting donations from companies that profit from the systemic injustices and suffering that results from them is incompatible with the values and platform of our Party.”

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