From Consortium News
California Governor Jerry Brown departed in this year's State of the State speech from the traditional practice of listing key issues and restating the panoply of the administration's priorities for the coming year. Instead, Brown discussed the "broader context of our country and its challenges."
Brown reminded President Trump of the importance of California's economy in the scheme of things. "This is California," said the Governor, "the sixth most powerful economy in the world. One out of every eight Americans lives right here and 27 percent -- almost 11 million -- were born in a foreign land. When California does well, America does well. And when California hurts, America hurts."
Brown continued, "A few moments ago, I swore into office our new attorney general [Xavier Becerra]. Like so many others, he is the son of immigrants who saw California as a place where, through grit and determination, they could realize their dreams. And they are not alone, millions of Californians have come here from Mexico and a hundred other countries, making our state what it is today: vibrant, even turbulent, and a beacon of hope to the rest of the world."
"So as we reflect on the state of our state," Brown concluded, "let me be clear: we will defend everybody -- every man, woman and child -- who has come here for a better life and has contributed to the well-being of our state."
There has been a flurry of activity in the California State legislature that echoes Brown's defiant talk about holding the line against Trump on immigration. There are bills pending now that deal with immigration at all levels, from creating a special legal office to protect undocumented workers facing deportation to extending Sanctuary in California to cover the entire state. Most recently introduced is California Senate Bill SB-31, the California Religious Freedom Act.
The California Religious Freedom Act "would prohibit a state or local agency or a public employee, acting under color of law from providing or disclosing to the federal government personally identifiable information regarding a person's religious beliefs or practices, national origin, or ethnicity for law enforcement or immigration purposes."
The bill would also "prohibit state and local law enforcement agencies from collecting personally identifiable information on the religious beliefs, practices, or affiliation of any individual, except as part of a targeted investigation, or where necessary to provide religious accommodations."
I spoke with California State Senator Ricardo Lara, who introduced the bill and is concerned about the creation of a national registry or database "based solely on religious beliefs or affiliation."
Dennis Bernstein: I want to begin with your ... gut overview of what you see happening, the way these presidential directives are signed, the way this was rolled out. Give us a sense of what's going on in your mind and how this reverberates in your community.
Ricardo Lara: Well, we're very concerned that this president continues to vilify and seek to scapegoat various communities throughout our country, which only perpetuates his goal of dividing us as a nation. And so, as a California elected official, it's important that not only do we demonstrate that we're going to fight back, and we're going to fight for the rights of all Americans, and Californians, but that we demonstrate that we're better than that. That this is really not what America is about.
And so, it's very troubling. It puts us in a defensive position here in California. But, we're also going to continue to push on those progressive policies that have made California the fifth [correction: sixth] largest economy in the world.
DB: And California is definitely ... on the front line, is setting the example, is really drawing the line, in terms of what people are willing to do. This is in the context of so many things going on in the public agencies, as sanctuary cities. You want to talk a little bit more about that kind of uprising of resistance?
RL: Absolutely. We have committed, in the state legislature, that we are going to do everything we can to fight these divisive policies, and we're going to protect our sanctuary cities, and, in a sense, create the sanctuary state. That is the state of California.
So, the executive orders that have come down from the president are still going to need congressional action. So we have some time to kind of decipher what method we're going to use to fight, either in the courts or in the legislature, through policy making. But right now these are his policy statements, and directives. We're still going to have to wait for Congress to act on a majority of these things.
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