Virgin’s Seed, by Paul Botello, Hazard Ave. at Hammel St., Los Angeles
By Harold Meyerson,* the Los Angeles Times, March 5, 2017
“‘Since election day, children are scared about what might happen to their parents,’ says Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigration Rights of Los Angeles. [CHIRLA] ‘And parents for their children. We fill out at least 10 guardianship letters every day for [undocumented] parents who fear for their [U.S. citizen] kids if they — the parents — are deported.’
Los Angeles has rarely been a more fearful place than it is today. L.A. and Orange counties are home to roughly 1 million immigrants in the country illegally — more than any region except greater New York. That’s not counting the U.S. citizens in mixed-status families — like those American-born children losing sleep at the prospect of losing their mothers and fathers.
Business is off at stores with a predominantly immigrant clientele, Salas says. The possibility of stakeouts by Immigration and Customs Enforcement [ICE] agents has caused thousands of Angelenos to abbreviate their daily rounds.
With the Trump administration eliminating most of the legal distinctions between law-abiding, productive undocumented immigrants and their violent, convicted counterparts, the entire city is facing a test of character. ‘The question before us,’ says Rusty Hicks, who heads the L.A. County Federation of Labor, ‘is how do we make this different from 1942, when Japanese Americans were carted away and no one lifted a finger to help them.’
At CHIRLA, the to-do lists have changed. The organization is now compelled, sometimes hourly, to confirm or deny reports of ICE sweeps. (No, CHIRLA put out the word on the day I interviewed Salas, there aren’t any ICE agents on the platforms at Union Station today.) But its primary mission is to inform immigrants of their rights and help provide counsel if they’re caught up in the government’s deportation machinery.
Through videos and daily live presentations, CHIRLA provides a Know Your Rights seminar. Along with such groups as the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Immigration Law Center and the Labor Federation’s Miguel Contreras Foundation, it has assembled a network of pro bono and “low bono” attorneys to represent immigrants in deportation proceedings. [….]
Los Angeles will be the primary battleground of the fight to resist the deportation of immigrants (all save those convicted of violent felonies). The state government weighed in as far back as last summer, when it raised to $30 million the amount it devotes annually to immigrant legal aid. [….] It’s not as if Californians are clamoring for mass deportations. A USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll from May 2016 showed that 65% of state voters believed that immigrants in the country illegally should be allowed to apply for citizenship, 14% percent thought they should gain legal status but not citizenship and only 16% favored deportation. But President Trump’s budget will greatly expand the number of ICE agents, and many of the new hires inevitably will come here.
What happens to the million among us who lack federal documentation — one-tenth of Los Angeles and more, when factoring in their families — will be determined not just by those immigrants, or by ICE, or by the courts and attorneys, but by Angelenos as a whole.” [….] The entire article is here.
* Harold Meyerson is executive editor of the American Prospect. He is a contributing writer to Opinion.