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County Supervisor Kathryn Barger Casts Lone Dissenting Votes On Two Immigrant Protection Motions

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Supervisor Kathryn Barger and friends. (Photo courtesy of Supervisor Kathryn Barger)
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On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors overwhelmingly approved two different immigrant protection motions; one member of the board, Supervisor Kathryn Barger, cast the lone dissenting vote on both measures. Barger, who is the only Republican on the five-member board, replaced termed-out longtime Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich in December 2016. She represents the county's 5th District, a geographically sweeping seat that encompasses much of northern Los Angeles County, including the Antelope Valley, Santa Clarita and parts of the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys.

The motions, coauthored by Supervisors Hilda L. Solis and Sheila Kuehl, do two things. One creates a countywide sensitive locations policy, and the other operationalize the county’s Immigrant Protection and Advancement Taskforce.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's widely-publicized arrest of Los Angeles father Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez while he was dropping his daughters off at school intensified concerns over ICE's Sensitive Locations Policy, which limits the agency's ability to conduct enforcement actions without a warrant in places like schools and houses of worship, and reportedly remains in effect. Avelica-Gonzalez was not actually at his daughter's school when the arrest was made; he had dropped one child off at one campus and was en route to a second neighboring campus to drop his other daughter off when he was pulled over by ICE agents. Even though the Trump administration has not yet altered the agency's Sensitive Locations Policy, they appear to be "pushing the limits" of the policy, according to the L.A. Times Editorial Board.

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“Over the past several months, we have heard of the presence and activity of immigration enforcement officials near sensitive locations. The public should have no reason to fear dropping their kids off at school, stepping into a courthouse, or getting health services at a County hospital," Supervisor Hilda Solis said in a statement.

"The perception of increased enforcement activities at [sensitive] locations, even if unfounded, threatens to chill the access to County offices and agencies on which core County functions depend," according to the motion, which dictates that the county develop policies consistent with state and federal law and the United States Constitution, and ensure that a resident’s presence at a county facility does not increase his or her exposure to enforcement activities, including federal enforcement. Tuesday's vote directed County Counsel and the Chief Executive Office to provide recommendations for a policy within 45 days.

According a statement from her office, Barger voted No on the sensitive locations motion "based on strong concerns about possible fiscal consequences of non-cooperation by the county with federal law enforcement authorities."

The second motion, which was also passed with a 4-1 vote, operationalized and formally established the Los Angeles County Immigrant Protection and Advancement Taskforce, which will bring together public and private stakeholders to develop and implement a vision for immigrant advancement throughout the county. It also brought in 11 new members to the taskforce. Supervisor Barger was also not a fan of this motion.

“Creating a task force and hiding illegal immigrants from federal enforcement only institutionalizes their illegal status and forces them further into the shadows,” Supervisor Barger said. Her choice of wording is of particular note, since Los Angeles-area elected officials typically use the word "undocumented" instead of "illegal." A quick search of recent press releases shows that "undocumented" is the parlance used by Supervisor Hilda Solis, Assemblymember Miguel Santiago, Congressman Ted W. Lieu, Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, Senator Kevin de León, both California Senators, and even the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.

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“Rather than moving toward becoming a ‘sanctuary’ state and county in violation of federal law, both the state and the county should be leading the effort to initiate congressional action to enact comprehensive immigration reform,” Barger continued.