As California makes it its personal mission to beat back President Donald Trump’s policies, one of the most closely watched bills in the Legislature is San Diego Sen. Ben Hueso’s measure to provide legal counsel to immigrants facing deportation.

The bill, SB 6, got its first hearing to a packed crowd this week in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Sacramento Report logo

In his introductory remarks, Hueso, whose district stretches to the U.S.-Mexico border, said his father faced deportation three times even after he became a U.S. citizen.

Perhaps the most contentious piece of the bill is an amendment stipulating the benefit would be limited to people with no violent criminal convictions.

That clause was put in there to address concerns that we have limited state resources,” Tanya Duggan, a spokeswoman for Hueso, told me.

One immigration attorney representing the San Francisco public defender’s office testified against the bill for that reason.

“If this legislative body decides to strip access to counsel for individuals convicted of certain types of criminal offenses, not only will the state of California be abdicating its duty to uphold the Constitution of the United States, but it will also set a dangerous precedent throughout the country for other initiatives where we are fighting for the right to counsel,” said Francisco Ugarte.

Hueso said he agreed, but that it was a matter of acknowledging reality.

“I wish that we could have a bill that does not include that. I had a lot of heartache over doing that, I didn’t want to do that in the bill,” he said. “But I also have to consider that under our previous president’s policies, anybody that was convicted of a felony or a violent crime was already deported.”

Several other public defender offices oppose the bill because of the conviction carve-out.

Sen. William Monning noted that some people are deported without even receiving a hearing – and those people wouldn’t be helped by SB 6. Another bill or remedy should protect the right to a hearing, he said.

Sen. Joel Anderson, who represents East County, wanted to know how much the bill will cost.

“As soon as I know, you’ll be the first to know,” Hueso told him.

Hueso also acknowledged the bill will also have to go before the Senate Appropriations Committee, where many well-meaning but pricey measures go to die.

Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, who chairs the committee, said the bill still has issues that need ironing out, but that legal counsel is fundamental to democracy: “This is one of the priorities of a democracy. … Everyone is entitled to due process and representation,” she said.

On top of the due process argument, Hueso stressed throughout the hearing that protecting immigrants is a matter of fiscal responsibility.

“This is a bill protecting people, protecting families, and also protecting California’s economic prominence,” he said. “I hope that we can all stand united on this and that yes, we stand by our immigrant community in California. That they have come here seeking their own prosperity and that they are working to contribute to everyone else’s prosperity. We need to show our support to them because they’ve been supporting us.”

Aside from the price tag, the big remaining questions are how people will access the service, and whether it will be available on a first come, first served basis.

The bill passed out of committee (Anderson was one of two no votes), and will head next to the Senate Human Services Committee.

Duggan said that because the issue the bill seeks to address is so urgent, Hueso hopes the bill makes it to the Senate floor by the end of the month.

The Senate Judiciary Committee this week also considered so-called “sanctuary state” legislation that would prohibit local law enforcement officers from cooperating with federal immigration authorities.

The more conservative members of San Diego’s delegation are opposed. Sen. Joel Anderson, who spoke out against the bill during its hearing this week, said in a statement, “I don’t want murderers, rapists, child molesters, or armed-robbers protected by the state to be returned to our neighborhoods.”

Assemblyman Randy Voepel, whose district overlaps with Anderson’s, said in a statement, “Any efforts to codify California as a sanctuary state will impede law enforcement’s ability to implement immigration policy, erode the rule of law, and jeopardize billions of dollars in federal funding.”

Newsom Wants to Bring Back ComCal – So What Is it?

As President Donald Trump pushes ahead with efforts to fortify the U.S.-Mexico border, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is looking for ways to bolster relations among state-level agencies on both sides of it.

Newsom, meeting in San Diego on Monday with Latino civic leaders, called for the re-launch of California’s decades-old partnership with Baja California and Baja California Sur.

For 40 years, the Commission of the Californias, known as ComCal, sought to coordinate on education, economic development and health and environment issues from its inception in 1964 until its dissolution in 2004.

Newsom’s statement — made five days after Trump signed executive orders to build a U.S.-Mexico wall, strengthen border patrols and expand the number of deportation agents — framed the California-Baja region as a contiguous economic and cultural entity that ought not be disrupted.

“[G]iven the threat to our regional relationship today, it’s needed now more than ever,” Gavin said in the statement. “Resurrecting ComCal would create a state-level mechanism to hold doors open for business and cultural exchanges within a region whose economies, histories and conventions are inseparable.”

Newsom’s call to revive ComCal is unique, but the idea that the ties between leaders in Southern California and Baja California should be strengthened, not cut, is not. San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, another potential governor candidate along with Newsom, also spoke out against Trump’s order this week – although in a vague, business-friendly way:

SD already has a border built by the Feds. Crossborder trade creates jobs. Our binational economic & cultural ties have my full support.

— Kevin Faulconer (@Kevin_Faulconer) January 25, 2017

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger dissolved ComCal during his transition after winning the 2004 election following the recall of Gov. Gray Davis.

Critics had derided ComCal as a “margarita commission” in the ‘90s under Gov. Pete Wilson, who won his 1994 re-election bid largely on the strength of his support for that year’s referendum on illegal immigration, the divisive and controversial Proposition 187.

Prop. 187 had won over voters by a wide margin, but judicial injunction prevented it from taking effect. Davis dismantled the measure. Newsom, in his statement on Monday, touted ComCal’s role as a curative to damage wrought by Prop 187.

During that time, ComCal could count energy projects, business roundtables, youth sports exchanges, environmental cooperation and funding for the Orchestra of the Californias among its accomplishments, said Rudy Murillo, who Davis appointed as its director.

“I believe we made differences every day in improving eye-level communication and mutual respect among the states in myriad hair-on-fire issues involving efficient border facilitation at [ports of entry],” Murillo wrote in an email. “And we [ensured] that anything of mutual importance to the three states made it to the top of the respective governors’ in-boxes. … Moreover, there were levels of trust that saved time and money.”

But after Schwarzenegger took office, Murillo said his resignation memo never made it to the new governor.

“I learned later that he (Arnold) never saw it and that his transition staff snuffed the Commission for fear of comparison with prior iterations,” Murillo wrote.

Sebastian Montes

Padilla Describes 3-Pronged Trump Strategy

Secretary of State Alex Padilla said California should adopt a three-pronged approach to dealing with unfavorable policies from the Trump Administration: legislation, litigation and organization. That means passing laws that protect California’s interests, filing lawsuits against federal policies that don’t and countering Trump’s political movement with protests and competing candidates.

Padilla, who was the first Latino president of the Los Angeles City Council, got into politics because of his opposition to Proposition 187, which would have denied undocumented immigrants access to government services, including public education.

“I realized kind of the hard way, I can’t choose to not be involved anymore,” he told a UCSD class on the Voting Rights Act, which is led by his former legislative colleague, Nathan Fletcher.

Now, Padilla is among several Latinos in state power, including the attorney general and the leaders of both the state Senate and Assembly. Padilla thinks that Trump cause a similar turning point for the entire country.

“I hope that as a nation we are experiencing America’s Prop. 187 moment,” he said.

Padilla has worked to make it easier for Californians to vote while other secretaries of state have been taking steps that seem designed to restrict access to the ballot box to the benefit of Republican candidates. He has pushed back against Trump’s claims there were millions of cases of voter fraud. In America’s biggest state, Padilla said he knew of none.

His trip to San Diego was one of many he’s taken either while campaigning or in office. When he called on students, he asked each of them where they were from. Whether they were from some town outside of Sacramento or somewhere in the San Fernando Valley, he knew something about their community.

— Ry Rivard

Odds and Ends, Featuring the San Diego Delegation

In a Washington Examiner op-ed, Sen. Joel Anderson defends his bill passed last session that helps minors arrested for prostitution avoid criminal charges and receive services.

Meanwhile, a new bill introduced this week by Sen. Toni Atkins also deals with sex trafficking — SB 230 would make it easier to convict traffickers by allowing in certain cases for “evidence of a criminal defendant’s past crimes of sex trafficking” to be included at trial.

• Other bills introduced by Atkins this week include one that would build the capacity of the San Diego River Conservancy, and one that would help protect patients’ access to interpretation services in the event the Affordable Care Act is repealed.

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon has launched the Speaker’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Early Childhood Education, and San Diego Assemblyman Brian Maienschein and Assemblywoman Marie Waldron are on board. “The commission will be tasked with identifying ways to create a more sustainable early learning system and update an outdated funding plan that has been unable to meet the demand for child care access in California,” according to the speaker’s office.

In San Diego, only the richest and the poorest have good access to preschool.

Assemblyman Todd Gloria this week announced a bill to give graduating high school seniors more room to wear religious and cultural adornments during their graduation ceremonies.

Sen. Pat Bates announced a bill that, in the event President Donald Trump takes action to “repatriate” corporate earnings, would earmark California’s share of new money for transportation projects.

Golden State News

 Union membership is growing in California, even as it slips in other states. (Orange County Register)

Lawmakers are worried that the system to regulate marijuana won’t be ready by the end of the year, as promised. (L.A. Times)

Cities up and down the state have made moves to regulate Airbnb. The Legislature, not so much. (L.A. Times)

The state Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether Proposition 66, the measure passed in November that would speed up death penalty executions, is legal. (San Francisco Chronicle)

In his first big speech since launching his bid for governor, former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said “there are actually two Californias – one largely white and wealthy, the other largely Latino and poor.” (Politico)

Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

Leave a comment

We expect all commenters to be constructive and civil. We reserve the right to delete comments without explanation. You are welcome to flag comments to us. You are welcome to submit an opinion piece for our editors to review.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.