Things That Matter

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra Is Getting Ready To Challenge Trump In The Supreme Court

As the Supreme Court is set to take on the task of deciding the fate of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) this fall, attorneys general from across the country sent in a filing brief in favor of the program. The 2012 Obama-era policy provided temporary legal status for participants and protected them from deportation. More importantly, it included the ability to work in the U.S. It also became a focal point in the debate over Trump’s proposed US-Mexico border wall back in February and his plans to take on illegal immigration. 

The Supreme Court decided to take on the case in June and will then hear oral arguments on the case in November with an expected ruling in the 2020 election year, putting the highest court in the land at the center of this divisive issue. For California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, this issue hits close to home. 

Of the roughly 700,000 DACA recipients, also known as Dreamers, almost 200,000 of them live in California.

Credit: @XavierBeccerra / Twitter

In a brief filed last Friday to the Supreme Court, Becerra and other fellow attorneys generals from Maine, Maryland, and Minnesota argued that the Trump administration unlawfully terminated the program back in September 2017. Becerra has been at the forefront of the fight defending DACA. In his state of California, there are roughly 200,000 recipients and many of them go to school and work there. 

“The Trump Administration continues to hide behind the flimsy excuse that their hands were tied and they had to end DACA,” said Attorney General Becerra said last week. “The truth is there is no basis for that conclusion. Dreamers who have called America home for decades contribute significantly to our communities as teachers, first responders, entrepreneurs, and so much more. Many of them know no other home than the United States.”

Back in September 2017, the Trump administration initially said it was going to end the program, making the claim it was an illegal use of executive power by then-President Obama. That resulted in various lawsuits and injunctions filed by three U.S. district courts, including one in California. This would allow those who were previously granted DACA the power to renew their applications. 

When it was announced that oral arguments would be heard in front of the Supreme Court, Becerra was one of the most vocal political figures defending the program. He said then that he would do everything in his power to fight the Trump administration. 

“DACA reflects our nation’s commitment to helping hardworking people and creates hope and opportunity for a new generation – many of whom were brought to our country as toddlers. So far, both lower courts in our legal fight to protect DACA have agreed with us that the Trump Administration’s attempt to end it was unlawful,” Attorney General Becerra said back in June. “In California and across our nation, Dreamers enrich our communities as scholars, entrepreneurs, first responders, and much more. We look forward to making our case before the Supreme Court.”

The brief emphasizes the economic contributions that DACA recipients have on the U.S. and the consequences of terminating the program would have on the job market.

Credit: Unsplash

“Getting rid of DACA will reduce economic growth and cost our federal, state, and local governments about $95 billion in foregone tax revenues, without any appreciable employment gains for U.S. citizens,” Ike Branon wrote in an op-ed for Forbes last month. 

Dreamers contribute almost $9 billion in federal, state and local taxes every single tear. The result of removing the program would cause businesses to lose billions of dollars in turnover costs if their DACA-recipient employees are no longer able to legally live and work in the U.S. The statistics also show creating a pathway for legal citizenship is beneficial for all and will only cause more harm than good is rescinded. 

President Trump has repeatedly used DACA as a way to try to get lawmakers to pass comprehensive immigration reform. So far, there has been no progress on that front as both Democrats and Republicans have not been able to come pass any legislation. 

As we wait for the Supreme Court to hear the case on DACA, thousands of people wait as their futures and livelihood in the U.S. hang in the balance. It will take more people like Becerra to stand up and voice their opinion on the program if it stands any chance of surviving. 

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A California City Is Being Sued Because Of Evictions Of Black And Latino Residents Considered Discriminatory

Things That Matter

A California City Is Being Sued Because Of Evictions Of Black And Latino Residents Considered Discriminatory

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The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed a lawsuit against the city of Hesperia and the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department alleging discrimination against black and Latino renters. The suit, filed earlier this month, takes aim at a 2016 Hesperia rental ordinance that requires landlords to evict tenants who had allegedly committed crimes on or near their property. 

Making matters more troublesome is that the housing law was passed at a time when Hesperia, a Mojave Desert city of just under 100,000 people located 35 miles north of San Bernardino, saw it’s Latino and African-American populations growing. Between 2000 and 2010, the number of Latinos living in Hesperia rose 140 percent, and the number of African-Americans by 103 percent, according to Census Bureau data.

The housing law, called the “Crime Free Rental Housing Program” led to the eviction of countless families, including children, for alleged criminal activity that included one tenant or even some non-tenants. This was in addition to the eviction of family members who had reported domestic violence to the police. The housing act even involved allegations from authorities of criminal activity even if the individual wasn’t arrested, charged or convicted. 

According to federal authorities, city councilmembers’ statements in creating the controversial ordinance show that it was designed to reverse “demographic” changes in Hesperia.

The suit, alleges that the housing law was put in place for one primary reason, to drive minorities out of the city of Hesperia. The DOJ is seeking to stop future similarly discriminatory housing laws and for financial compensation for those tenants that were affected by the ordinance. The housing law was put in effect from Jan. 1, 2016 to July 18, 2017.

The DOJ says that the ordinance violated the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits housing discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin, and disability. With the city’s sheriff’s department having determination in which tenants would be evicted, there was an instance when an older Latino couple was removed due to their adult son, who did not live with them, being arrested, the suit said. 

When the measure was initially being drafted, Hesperia Mayor Eric Schmidt made comments about the number of renters that were coming into the city from parts of L.A. County that were known for having large minority populations. According to prosecutors, Schmidt allegedly said that groups left L.A. County  “because it’s a cheap place to live and it’s a place to hide,” and that “the people that aggravate us aren’t from here,” they “come from somewhere else with their tainted history.”

Another questionable comment came from city councilmember Russ Blewett who allegedly said that Hesperia needed to “improve our demographic,” and that he wanted “those kind of people” that the ordinance would particularly target to get “the hell out of our town. 

“I want their butt kicked out of this community as fast as I can possibly humanly get it done,” Blewett said, according to the suit.

“The Fair Housing Act prohibits local governments from enacting ordinances intended to push out African-American and Latino renters because of their race and national origin, or from enforcing their ordinances in a discriminatory manner,” Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband said in the press release. “The United States Department of Justice will continue zealously to enforce the Fair Housing Act against anyone and any organization or institution that violates the law’s protections against race, national origin, and other forms of unlawful discrimination.”

As of now, the city of Hesperia has denied any and all wrongdoing in regard to the DOJ lawsuit. 

Rachel Molina, a spokeswoman for the City of Hesperia, told the Victorville Daily Press that the information presented in the DOJ lawsuit is “factually incorrect and grossly misleading.”

“First and foremost, I would like to say that Hesperia is a very diverse community,” Molina said. “We love and embrace diversity in Hesperia. At no time did the City’s crime-free ordinance discriminate against residents of any ethnicity. There are crime-free programs across the United States aimed at providing residents with safer communities — in the recent past HUD supported such programs.”

Before the DOJ filed its own lawsuit, the ACLU took legal action two years ago against the city on similar premises of housing discrimination. 

This isn’t the first time the city and it’s sheriff’s department have faced legal action over the ordinance. Back in 2016, the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California filed a suit on the claim that the housing law restricted housing and services for those individuals who had criminal records. In retaliation, Hesperia made adjustments to the law to make the program voluntary for landlords. Just last year, the city agreed to settle with the ACLU lawsuit for $485,000 dollars. 

That lawsuit was filed on behalf of Sharon Green, who leads the Victor Valley Family Resource Center, a housing nonprofit organization. Green told the LA Times that the DOJ suit is important in regards to other cities that might be considering similar discriminatory housing laws. 

The DOJ suit will “send a strong message to cities around the country that they cannot discriminate. Our homeless numbers are far too large and there are far too many obstacles to housing already to be dealing with this kind of foolishness.”

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Los Angeles Made History After Nury Martinez Became The First Latina City Council President

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Los Angeles Made History After Nury Martinez Became The First Latina City Council President

cd6nury / Instagram

There was some history made this past Tuesday as Nury Martinez was unanimously elected as the first Latina president in the 110-year history of the Los Angeles City Council. With a unanimous 14-0 vote, albeit Councilman Gil Cedillo was absent, the council chose to put Martinez at the head of one of the most important positions in the city. 

With the historic vote, the San Fernando Valley Councilwoman will be succeeding outgoing Council President Herb Wesson, the first African-American to head the council. Martinez will become just the second woman ever elected to serve as LA city council president. Before Martinez, Councilwoman Pat Russell was the first and only woman elected back in 1983. 

As the daughter of Mexican immigrants, who worked as a dishwasher and a factory worker, Martinez took time to credit and thank them during a speech on Tuesday.

Her humble beginnings growing up in Pacoima, a predominantly Latino working-class community in the San Fernando Valley, taught her the importance of hard work. Martinez saw her mom and dad work tirelessly for her family so she could have a chance at success one day. That day came on Tuesday. 

“As the daughter of immigrants, as a daughter of a dishwasher and factory worker, it is incredibly, incredibly personal for me to ensure that children and families in this city become a priority for all of us, to ensure our children have a safe way to walk home every day … to ensure that our families feel safe,” Martinez said on Tuesday. “And first and foremost, to ensure that children living in motels, children that are facing homelessness, finally become a priority of our city, to ensure that we … find them permanent housing for them to grow up.”

Martinez is the product of public schools and became the first in her family to graduate from college. She began her career serving her own community as part of the City of San Fernando Council from 2003-2009 then followed that as a member of the L.A. Unified School Board from 2009-2013. 

It was her upset victory in 2013 beating out well-known Democrat Cindy Montañez, a former state assemblywoman, for a seat on the city council that put her on the LA political map. Despite trailing 19 points after the primary city election, Martinez would win in the general election by 969 votes. 

“To think, six years ago, I wasn’t even supposed to be here. I worked so hard and I was able to turn it around,” Martinez told the LA Times. “It’s not only an honor, but I really and truly feel blessed. And I just want to make everyone proud.”

Martinez has previously taken on issues like ending homelessness, installing rent control laws and supporting low-income families. She hopes to continue fighting for this and similar issues as president of the city council. 

As part of the city council, Martinez worked on behalf of the many families in the San Fernando Valley taking on issues like housing projects, rent control, and paid family leave. These issues will continue to be part of her agenda as president of the city council as well as advocating for children and families. 

“It’s monumental. She looks like the face of L.A. and she’s been elected to the highest position possible,” Jaime Regalado, professor emeritus with California State University, Los Angeles, told LAist.  “Usually people consider city council president to be a stepping stone to elsewhere — and we’ll see what the future holds.”

The significant moment wasn’t lost on many who congratulated Martinez for this historic stepping stone for Latinas everywhere. 

Another trailblazer, Gloria Molina, who was first Latina ever elected to the City Council, told the LA Times that Martinez has an incredible opportunity in front of her to bring real change and representation to the position. 

“She has a real opportunity to bring so much change,” Molina said. “She has an opportunity to create a balance. Martinez’s election is “a very significant accomplishment, not just as a Latina but as a woman. It’s still a men’s game there.”

As the council vote was officially confirmed and the motion to elect Martinez passed, there was a loud eruption of applause from those in the council chamber. The significance of the moment wasn’t lost on Martinez who said that she will use the opportunity to highlight the best that Latinos can offer. 

“I think it’s important to continue to show the rest of the country what this community is made of,” she said. “The Latinos are ready to lead and we’re very grateful to be part of this wonderful country called America.”

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