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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

Two California cities in the running for a new federal aid program aimed at fighting violent crime received an ominous message today from the Trump Department of Justice: sanctuary cities need not apply.

In a letter sent to the police chiefs of San Bernardino and Stockton, the administration made it clear that participation in the newly created National Public Safety Partnership Program—which will train local police departments on how to better fight violent crime—may be conditional on cooperating with federal immigration authorities.

Your jurisdiction has expressed interest in receiving assistance through the PSP program,” wrote acting Assistant Attorney General Alan Hanson.The Department is reviewing your jurisdiction’s commitment to reducing violent crime stemming from illegal immigration.” 

The chiefs were asked to demonstrate that the laws of their cities require local police to allow federal immigration agents into city jails, provide federal authorities with advanced notice before releasing an undocumented immigrant from custody, and honor federal requests to detain an undocumented immigrant beyond his or her release date.

The California Trust Act prevents state and local law enforcement officers from keeping non-felons behind bars solely at the request of federal immigration authorities. The Justice Department has deemed this, and related state and local restrictions, to be unlawful “sanctuary” policies.

President Trump has threatened to revoke funding from designated “sanctuary cities” since the first days of his administration. Earlier this year, the Department of Homeland Security began issuing weekly reports identifying cities, counties, and states considered to be out of compliance with federal immigration law. San Bernardino, though not Stockton, made the list. That program has since been suspended.

Last week, the Department of Justice announced that cities failing to cooperate with federal immigration authorities would no longer be eligible for the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant program, which provides state and local law enforcement agencies with funding for personnel, training, and equipment to fight crime.

Michael Tubbs, the mayor of Stockton, responded with a statement saying that while he looked forward to a “fair and equitable” review of the police department’s application, the city would not be changing any of its law enforcement policies. “Our police will continue the department policy to not stop, question, detain or place an immigration hold on any individual solely on the grounds that he or she may be a deportable alien,” said Tubbs. “This practice is consistent with law enforcement policy throughout the United States.”

Between January and July of this year, 2,158 violent crimes were committed in Stockton, making it the most violent city in the state per capita, according to FBI statistics. San Bernardino came in third after Oakland.

The police chiefs were given until August 18 to respond.

California’s most violent cities

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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.

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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

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.”

Want to submit a reader reaction? You can find our submission guidelines here. Please contact Dan Morain with any questions, dmorain@calmatters.org, (916) 201.6281.

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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, dmorain@calmatters.org, (916) 201.6281.

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