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Trump rails against sanctuary city policies; Abed, Gaspar weigh in

Publicado el 16 de mayo de 2018
por J. Harry Jones en San Diego Union Tribune. Fotografía: Getty images

resident Donald Trump on Wednesday renewed his attacks on California’s sanctuary city immigration policies in a carefully orchestrated, hour-long roundtable at the White House.

As the debate over immigration heats up on Capitol Hill, Trump surrounded himself with mayors, sheriffs and other local leaders from California who oppose the state’s immigration policies and who applauded his administration’s hard-line efforts.

The event provided a national platform for two San Diego County participants, Escondido Mayor Sam Abed and Kristin Gaspar, chairwoman of the county Board of Supervisors who is running to replace the retiring Rep. Darrell Issa.

“This is your Republican resistance right here against what they’re doing in California,” said California Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez, co-opting a term used by Democrats opposed to Trump’s presidency. She, like others, said the president and his policies were far more popular in the state than people realize.

“It’s a crisis,” Melendez said of the situation.

They were responding to legislation signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown last year that bars police from asking people about their immigration status or helping federal agents with immigration enforcement. Jail officials can transfer inmates to federal immigration authorities if they have been convicted of certain crimes, mostly felonies, but not for minor offenses.

Brown insists the legislation, which took effect Jan. 1, doesn’t prevent federal immigration officials from doing their jobs.

But the Trump administration has sued to reverse it, calling the policies unconstitutional and dangerous. Some counties, including San Diego and Orange, have voted to support the lawsuit or passed their own anti-sanctuary resolutions.

Republicans see backlash to the law as a potentially galvanizing issue during the midterm elections, especially with Trump’s anti-immigrant base. And Trump has held numerous events in recent months during which he’s drawn attention to California’s policies.

The issue is particularly polarizing in the border region of San Diego, which struggles to balance its business and cultural ties with neighboring Mexico with immigration policies that shift from one administration to the next.

During Wednesday’s session, Trump thanked the officials, saying they had “bravely resisted California’s deadly and unconstitutional sanctuary state laws.” He claimed those laws are forcing “the release of illegal immigrant criminals, drug dealers, gang members and violent predators into your communities” and providing “safe harbor to some of the most vicious and violent offenders on earth.”

“We have people coming into the country — or trying to come in, we’re stopping a lot of them — but we’re taking people out of the country, you wouldn’t believe how bad these people are,” Trump said. “These aren’t people. These are animals.”

Gaspar, a candidate for the 49th Congressional District, spoke to those security concerns by relating the story of a man who had been shot dead by an undocumented immigrant who had been previously deported. She said the killer is now living openly in a motel in Tijuana.

“We’ve created a situation where Gov. (Jerry) Brown has made San Diego a great place to commit a crime because you have options,” Gaspar said. “You can either be across the border in a matter of minutes and shielded by Mexico, or you have the option of simply staying put, shielded by Gov. Moonbeam,” she said, referring to Brown.

Ellen Montanari, a Democratic activist and one of the leaders of the group that spent more than a year protesting in front of Congressman Issa’s Vista office once a week, said she was appalled by the president’s comments about immigrants.

“I heard his comment about how these people are animals,” Montanari said. “He’s talking about women and children. I am literally speechless and I cannot believe Kristin Gaspar was sitting in the room with him and didn’t say, ‘excuse me, sir, you are speaking about human beings.'”

Brown responded on Twitter, writing that Trump “is lying on immigration, lying about crime and lying about the laws of CA.”

The Democratic governor added: “Flying in a dozen Republican politicians to flatter him and praise his reckless policies changes nothing. We, the citizens of the fifth largest economy in the world, are not impressed.”

The event came a day after top House Republicans paid a visit to the White House to discuss immigration with Trump. They are trying to head off an attempt by party moderates to force House roll calls on four immigration bills. Republican leaders privately warned GOP lawmakers Wednesday that such a drive could damage the party’s prospects in the fall’s congressional elections by dispiriting conservative voters, according to people at the closed-door meeting.

The House leaders fear the winning legislation would be a compromise bill backed solidly by Democrats but opposed by most Republicans, an outcome that could anger conservatives, according to Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., a leader of the effort to force the immigration votes.

Many of the legislators demanding action face potentially competitive re-election races in congressional districts with large numbers of Hispanic, suburban or agriculture-industry voters with pro-immigration views.

The discussion also comes as the Trump administration is under fire for a new policy that is expected to increase the number of children separated from their parents when families cross the border illegally.

Trump, in his remarks, wrongly blamed Democrats for forcing his administration’s hand.

“I know what you’re going through right now with families is very tough,” he told Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, “but those are the bad laws that the Democrats gave us. We have to break up families because of the Democrats. It’s terrible.”

But no law “the Democrats gave us” mandates the separation of children from their parents at the border. The administration is using protocols described in a 2008 law designed to combat child trafficking that gave special protections to Central American children at the border. While the bill was authored by Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, it unanimously passed both houses of Congress and was signed by Republican President George W. Bush as one of his last acts in office.

Trump asked Gaspar how construction of the border wall was going.

“It’s going, it’s going,” Gaspar said.

“It’s getting built, right?” Trump said. “They wanted it so badly in San Diego. I said if we build it we’ll lose a big constituency because there won’t be anybody saying we want the wall. But we had to build it and I know they are very happy about it.”

Abed told the president he is a proud immigrant from Lebanon.

“Thirty years ago, I came here to live the American Dream,” he said. “And we did well. Jerry Brown wants to take this American Dream away from us.”

He said Escondido is a “compelling model for the nation to follow.”

Abed said when he was elected mayor in 2010 he made an agreement with federal immigration officials. “We brought eight ICE agents to Escondido to our police station. Since then, we’ve deported more than 2,700 illegal criminals from our city and made Escondido as safe as it was in 1980.”

Escondido Councilwoman Olga Diaz, the only member of the City Council who voted against joining the federal lawsuit, said Wednesday she didn’t listen to the roundtable.

“Sam Abed has been the Donald Trump of Escondido for 10 years,” Diaz said. “To me the stuff that happens in the White House is not that different from stuff that happens at Escondido City Hall. So I don’t get upset about Donald Trump. I don’t get upset about the fact that he doesn’t tell the truth.”

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