As President Trump continues to vow to come down hard on illegal immigration, supporters of immigrants find themselves at odds over how much to fight for those whose criminal history is fodder for advocates of harsher and broader crackdowns.
L.A. County became an early flashpoint in the debate after officials — in response to fears of mass deportations — unveiled a $10-million fund to hire lawyers to defend local immigrants without legal status.
Some activists believe that not only should the L.A. Justice Fund help all immigrants but that no one should be deported — not even those convicted of violent crimes.
That position puts them at odds with others — including Democratic politicians in California and many immigrants themselves — who support deporting those convicted of violent and more grave crimes, which was a long-standing policy embraced by President Obama.
Those others want to focus their efforts on preventing deportations of people who simply came to the country for a better life.
“I don’t think there’s a member of Congress — Republican or Democrat — who believes that if somebody commits an egregious crime, that they shouldn’t be deported,” said Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-Los Angeles), the son of Mexican immigrants. “Public safety is a very important issue to all of us.”
L.A. Councilman Gil Cedillo, a key figure in the successful push to allow immigrants who are in the country illegally to get driver’s licenses in California, said there are people who should lose the privilege of remaining in the U.S.
“I don’t want one person taken away from their family,” he said. “But that’s different from narco-traffickers or people who are engaged in sex trafficking. And I don’t know how you would try to defend that.”
By Andrea Castillo for Los Angeles Times
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