Why California must defy Trump on immigration

By Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America (Donald Trump) [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons

Editor’s Note: This op-ed first appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle on May 20, 2017

Kevin de León

Here’s what we learned about Ruben Navarrette Jr. from his May 16 column: He thinks we shouldn’t protect hardworking undocumented residents from President Trump’s mass-deportation machine because it is like kicking “white people in the teeth.”

Their fear of losing the “white majority” in coming decades has been heightened by the president’s politically expedient portrayal of immigrants as a lawless community.

The fact is, study after study has shown undocumented residents commit fewer crimes and are incarcerated at a much lower rate than those born in the country.

Yet, under the Trump administration, arrests of undocumented residents have increased nearly 40 percent from the same time period in 2016, including 10,800 people with no criminal record — a 150 percent increase. Trump wants to commandeer local police to help deport the very people who contribute so much to our culture and economy.

When local police enforce immigration laws, they rapidly lose the trust of the undocumented community. Crimes go unreported for fear of arrest and deportation. The perpetrators roam free to strike again. Our communities become less — not more — safe.

My legislation, SB54, the California Values Act, will prevent state and local law enforcement agencies from acting as agents of the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Instead, it will keep them focused on what works best — community policing — rather than rounding up folks who in many instances assist police in solving crimes rather than commit them.

A newly released report by state Attorney General Javier Becerra that dispels the fallacies spread by the Trump administration about sanctuary policies cites several examples of how the cooperation of undocumented residents led to arrests and prosecutions.

The report also quotes several local law enforcement officials from across the land who stressed the importance of maintaining the trust of communities they serve.

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck put it this way: “When you create a shadow population … that fears any interaction (with law enforcement), then you create a whole population of victims, because they become prey for human predators who extort them or abuse them because they know they won’t contact the police.”

Furthermore, a recent study found that counties that do not cooperate with ICE are safer and enjoy a stronger economy.

In California, 1 in 10 workers is undocumented, approximately 3 million in all. They pay an estimated $3 billion in state and local taxes annually. They contribute $180 billion annually to our state’s GDP. To attack them, as the president has, is to attack our economy and prosperity.

Undocumented workers’ contributions to Social Security, without the expectation of drawing benefits, has helped keep the program afloat. For instance, in 2010 undocumented workers contributed $13 billion to Social Security while only receiving $1 billion in benefits — a net gain of $12 billion for the program.

Californians will not squander their precious public safety dollars to tear apart families, detain Dreamers (undocumented adults brought to the U.S. as children) or deport the people who have helped make California the sixth largest economy in the world.

We will not be intimidated by the Trump administration’s gun-to-the-head method to undermine the fundamental values that make our state and nation great.

Navarrette and I could agree on this: The immigration crisis is the result of Congress’ failure year after year to fix our dysfunctional immigration system by creating a path to citizenship.

State Sen. Kevin de León, D- Los Angeles, is the president pro tempore of the California Senate.