Lynwood Press Northeast Edition The Press

County plans to implement federal immigration orders

LOS ANGELES — The county Board of Supervisors voted Feb. 24 to create a task force to plan for the implementation of President Barack Obama’s immigration orders, despite a court order halting the programs.

If the two executive orders clear legal hurdles, they could defer deportation for nearly 500,000 Los Angeles-area residents.

Supervisors Hilda Solis and Sheila Kuehl recommended the task force, which will include employees from departments that manage voting, consumer fraud, property taxes, hospitals, community and senior services, parks and libraries. Supervisor Mike Antonovich dissented in the 4-1 vote, saying the effort was premature.

“People have asked me, ‘Why now?’” Solis said. “My response is, ‘Why not now?’ We need to prepare our community.”

While talking about the economic benefits of the immigration changes, Solis also raised concerns about fraud perpetrated by those looking to take advantage of immigrants when the programs roll out.

Research by UCLA’s North American Integration and Development Center estimate that offering work permits to roughly 466,000 immigrants in Los Angeles County could generate another $1.1 billion in tax revenues and 38,500 jobs.

“We would essentially legalize $25 billion. … It would come out of the shadows and become part of the formal economy,” UCLA Associate Professor Raul Hinojosa-Ojeda told the board.

Hinojosa-Ojeda said immigration is “by no means solely a Mexican issue,” noting that “one out of every seven Asians in this country is undocumented.”

The two programs — Expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Deferred Action for Parental Accountability and Lawful Permanent Residents — would allow an estimated 3.7 million parents of U.S.-born and resident children and another roughly 300,000 immigrants who arrived illegally as children to apply for work permits and temporary protection from deportation. Those totals are based on estimates from the Migration Policy Institute.

More than 600,000 people have already qualified under the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which offers protections to young people who were illegally brought to the U.S. as children. That total represents about half of those eligible for the program.

The age cap under that program would be eliminated under the latest executive action.

The new programs were set to start accepting applications Feb. 18, but a federal district court judge in Texas issued an injunction halting the program, ruling in favor of 20-plus states, led by Texas, that challenged the executive actions.

Antonovich said he believes “immigration is vital to this country,” but the county should wait for the legal battle to play out.

Solis reminded her colleagues about the “fierce fight” around the original Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals order, while Kuehl said she was “confident” that the courts would ultimately approve the president’s action.

“We will not wait to prepare,” Kuehl said.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who joined Solis and Kuehl at a morning news conference to highlight his commitment to immigration, said the task force was “our opportunity to telegraph to the nation that we get it. … Let’s accord everyone who we can a sense of dignity and respect.”

Los Angeles County Federation of Labor leader Rusty Hicks offered his union’s support.

“There is much about life that we don’t control. We don’t control the color of our skin, where we are born or who our parents are,” Hicks said, urging the supervisors to “keep [the] promise” of immigration.

Mayor Eric Garcetti’s chief of immigrant affairs called Los Angeles “the epicenter for the implementation.” Garcetti, who has joined the mayors of several other cities in support of the deferred action programs, had already reached out to county departments to coordinate, Solis said.

“Enrollment will result in economic gains and safer communities,” Garcetti chief of immigrant affairs Linda Lopez told the board.

In addition to objections raised in legal challenges to Obama’s action, those opposed to the task force raised concerns about immigrants competing for jobs and other resources.

“The county of Los Angeles has the highest poverty rate of any county in the state,” resident Kevin Lynn said. “If the optimistic projections that were voiced earlier … were anything but delusion, wouldn’t this county be experiencing less poverty and more prosperity?”

Those protected under the program would not be eligible for federal public benefits such as financial aid, food stamps or housing subsidies.

Whether they would be eligible for state aid would be decided on a state-by-state basis.

Antonovich said he expected that the immigration changes would ultimately end up costing the county money.

“Counties, cities and states have to pick up the tab,” Antonovich said.

A report back is expected in 30 to 60 days.