LOS ANGELES (CN) — In response to president-elect Donald Trump’s threats to speed up deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants, Los Angeles County leaders on Tuesday created an Office of Immigrant Affairs to protect them.
Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved creation of the Office of Immigrant Affairs after discussing recommendations and reports from county officials.
“It’s official! We created an Office of Immigrant Affairs today!” County Supervisor Hilda Solis posted on Twitter Tuesday afternoon.
The board said it would discuss the impacts to people in Los Angeles County if Trump makes good on his promise to cut federal funding to so-called sanctuary cities that refuse to report undocumented people to immigration enforcement.
Trump campaigned on promises to build a wall at the Mexican border, at Mexico’s expense, and said that within 100 days of taking office he will cut federal funds to sanctuary cities that protect undocumented immigrants.
“Block funding for sanctuary cities. We block the funding. No more funding,” Trump said in August 2016. “Cities that refuse to cooperate with federal authorities will not receive taxpayer dollars.”
Before the Tuesday morning meeting, protesters on both sides of the issue gathered outside the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration.
“The benefits that they’re entitled to are given away to illegals, and that’s wrong. College educations are given away to illegals instead of American citizens, or even veterans for that matter,” one man told ABC Channel 7 news.
Guillermo Torres, an organizer with Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, said in an interview outside the hall that he was pleased to see the board taking action to protect immigrants. He said that while he held no “ill will” toward the president-elect, he has “ill will towards his rhetoric and some of his policies.”
“I don’t know why he hasn’t come out and apologized and reversed his course. We hope that he does that,” Torres said. “We see that he has inspired people who have hate in their heart. That’s scary.”
By some estimates, there are 3,700 immigrants detained in the Los Angeles area without legal representation.
According to The California Coalition for Universal Representation, detained immigrants fighting deportation in California succeed only 6 percent of the time. Detained immigrants who are represented succeed more than five times as often, the group said in a 2016 study: “California’s Due Process Crisis: Access to Legal Counsel for Detained Immigrants.”
Los Angeles leaders, including Mayor Gil Garcetti and Police Chief Charlie Beck, say they will not help the Trump administration carry out mass deportations.
In a report to the board before the meeting, Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell echoed that sentiment. He said that undocumented immigrants should have “no fear” in coming forward to report crimes.
“We invite all residents, including those who are undocumented, to come forward to report crimes without fear of deportation,” McDonnell wrote in a 6-page report. “We shall treat all residents with dignity and respect without regard to a person’s immigration status. To this end, we shall not initiate any police activity with the objective of determining a person’s immigration status.”
In December, Los Angeles County leaders agreed to contribute $3 million to a $10 million legal fund for undocumented immigrants who cannot afford a lawyer. It is called the L.A. Justice Fund.