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How Two OC Congressional Candidates Competing For An Open Seat Differ On Immigration

Democrat Gil Cisneros and Republican Young Kim are running for the U.S. House seat being vacated by Congressman Ed Royce. (Cisneros photo by Angel De Leon/Cisneros for Congress via AP; Kim photo from candidate's campaign)
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If you live in cities like Fullerton, Diamond Bar or Placentia, you may have noticed the fierce competition between Republican Young Kim and Democrat Gil Cisneros fighting for an open seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The 39th Congressional District is one of the most competitive races in the country. It falls mainly in northern Orange County but takes in parts of Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties. Its current representative, Republican Ed Royce, is stepping down.

Democrats targeted Royce after Hillary Clinton won the district over Donald Trump in 2016, a sign of the shifting political and demographic changes in the 39th, where about two-thirds of the population are now Latino or Asian-American.

Midterm elections are often a referendum on the sitting president and Trump may be the deciding factor for many in this district where the candidates themselves are not widely known.

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Kim, an ex-Royce adviser and former state Assembly member, calls herself a moderate Republican and has been trying to distance herself from some of Trump's more far-right policies.

This is perhaps clearest in the positions she takes on immigration, a top issue in this district where President Trump's strict enforcement policies are embraced by some and denigrated by others.

Here's how the candidates stand -- how they are alike and how they differ -- on immigration issues:


Both candidates are against separating immigrant children from their parents at the border, as the Trump administration has done.

Cisneros: Opposes family separation

Cisneros, a Mexican-American, whose family has lived in the U.S. for generations, said: "The parents were in the United States, but yet the children were still being kept at these facilities as nothing more than a means to ... really just send a message that, 'Don't come here to the United States with your kids because we're going to take them away if you do. That's what's going to happen.'"

"And it's just inhumane," he adds.

Kim: Opposes family separation

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Kim, a South Korean immigrant, said: "I disagree with [the Trump] administration's family separation policy."

"We do need to take care of those issues in a humane way. But, you know, what we witnessed is not the humane way and it's totally against our American values ... ."

"But when I talk about immigration, it needs to be fair. The same way that my family came here, many of us, and many still, wait in line, thousands and thousands of them, to come to United States to realize the American dream."


Cisneros: Supports sanctuary state policies

Unlike Kim, Cisneros supports California's limits on local law enforcement cooperation with federal ICE agents under the so-called state sanctuary law. He emphasizes the need for police to build trust with members of the immigrant community.

"They feel comfortable coming to us when they see a crime, or so they can report a crime. And if we start enforcing immigration laws, that's not going to happen," he said.

"In the 39th, it's really about a safety issue and ... allowing the police to be able to do their job in a safe manner."

Kim: Opposes sanctuary state policies.

"I do not want the local law enforcement's hands to be tied, the ability to cooperate and coordinate with our federal agents. They are doing their job, they're trying to enforce the laws that we have," she said.

"Let the law enforcement do their jobs."


Cisneros: Opposes Trump's border wall

He says he would vote against any bill that funds it.

"The addition of a wall would do relatively little to help protect Americans, and would be a complete waste of our taxpayers' time and money," his website reads.

"For years after 9/11, America has spent a large sum of money helping to secure our borders, by investing in border troops and other tools to help keep our borders secure ... In order to secure our border, we need to help to fortify the tools we have in place so that we can address the needs of our country," the website says.

Kim: Supports Trump's border wall

Kim said she would support the president's wall as part of a larger strategy on border protection.

"If we are talking about securing the border, I believe we need to talk about maybe beefing up the border with ... the border's agents and that's probably one of the ways that I will be advocating for."

"What we need to do is come up with the immigration policy that works. That will secure the border but allow legal immigrants to come to United States in the fair way, but we will be compassionate when we deal with them," she said.


Based on latest registration numbers alone, the race will likely be close. Democrats make up 33.99 percent of all registered voters in the district and Republicans make up 34.15 percent.

Meanwhile, recent polls show Cisneros and Kim are nearly deadlocked with about a week to go before the Nov. 6 election. The Cook Political Report, rating the House contests, labels the race as a toss-up.

Get ready for the Nov. 6 election. Here at LAist, we want to make sure Angelenos have all the information they need to cast their votes. To get prepped on deadlines, candidates and ballot measures, check out our Voter Game Plan. And if you liked this election guide, consider supporting us! You can donate here.

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