From the time he first announced his candidacy, President-elect Donald Trump has made it known that he has big plans for undocumented immigrants. And as Trump stands poised to go forward with his pledges to deport millions of immigrants once he takes a seat in the White House, it's unclear what these migrants' futures will hold.
Nowhere are these anxieties felt more strongly than in California, which has the largest Hispanic population in the country and is home to an estimated 2.67 million undocumented immigrants. Democratic legislators in the blue state, however, are ready for a fight.
"Throughout the presidential campaign and since, the president-elect has made many troubling statements that run counter to the principles that define California today," Kevin de León, the California Senate president pro tempore, said, the New York Times reported. "There is no greater policy area than immigration where the comments run headlong to the values we share as Californians."
Facts and figures
The Pew Research Center reports that California's Hispanic population (as of 2014) consists of 14,991,000 residents, making up 39% of the state's total population. And the number of immigrants within these numbers is high: 36% of Hispanic Californians are foreign-born. The center also notes that 84% of the total Hispanic population in the state are of Mexican origin — Trump's primary target in his war on illegal immigration.
The roughly 2.67 million undocumented immigrants in California, the Public Policy Institute of California reported, make up nearly a quarter of undocumented immigrants nationwide. These undocumented Californians, 52% of whom are from Mexico, also have a significant impact on the state's economy: About 1 in 10 California workers are undocumented, the Institute noted, and a 2014 study by researchers at the University of Southern California calculated that undocumented workers contribute $130 billion annually to California's gross domestic product.
What the state government is doing to help
Upon reconvening on Monday, California's state legislature has immediately jumped into action to help protect its undocumented residents against the incoming Trump administration. And with Democrats in control of both the executive and congressional branches — with Democrats winning a congressional supermajority in the last election — it's likely that any measures proposed should come to pass.
"To the millions of undocumented residents pursuing and contributing to the California Dream," de León said in a statement, "the state of California will be your wall of justice should the incoming administration adopt an inhumane and overreaching mass-deportation policy."
The state congress began by passing identical resolutions in both chambers that call on the Trump administration to abandon its promise to deport millions of illegal immigrants.
"Immigrants are vital to many of California's industries such as technology, health care, agriculture, construction, hospitality and domestic services," the resolution reads. "Immigrants also represent a large percentage of small business owners and create [economic] prosperity and needed jobs for everyone."
Two joint bills, titled "due process for all," were also introduced in the state legislature on Monday to prepare for the legal battles that lie ahead. The first, authored by state Sen. Ben Hueso (D-San Diego), proposes state funding for nonprofit organizations that help to provide legal aid and other resources for undocumented immigrants, as well as places limits on coordination between local law enforcement officials and federal immigration agents. The second, authored by Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), would establish training centers for public defenders to better educate them on immigration and deportation cases.
A third bill was also introduced by de León on Wednesday, titled the California Values Act. The bill specifically prevents state and local resources from being used to aid federal immigration agents in deportation actions. There is nothing in the bill that would specifically obstruct the federal government from its own deportation processes; rather, the bill will ensure that state and local law enforcement officials will not perform these immigration duties on the federal government's behalf.
Additionally, the California Values Act also establishes "safe zones" in state-run buildings for undocumented workers, ensuring that deportation fears will not prevent these workers from seeking education and essential care. Schools, hospitals and courthouses will be designated as "safe zones" under the act, meaning that immigration enforcement will be completely prohibited on their premises.
Another bill package aimed at protecting the state's minority population was also introduced on Monday by Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), titled the Fight for California package. The package's bills contain legislation that would require Californians to vote on Trump's proposed border wall in order for it to be built and prohibit local governments from detaining immigrants through contracts with private, for-profit detention companies, as well as require all detention facilities to meet the minimum health and safety requirements set by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Another component of the bill package, meanwhile, would aim to protect the state's Muslim population against Trump's proposed database of Muslim residents. The bill would prohibit state agencies and departments from providing any information on an individual's religious affiliation to the federal government for the purpose of compiling a database.
"We're not going to allow a wall that harms our environment and our economy," Lara said in a statement. "We're not going to allow personal data on individual Californians' religious beliefs to be used to compile an unconstitutional database. ... We're going to fight for California and for our values of democracy, freedom and basic human decency."
These new measures join California's existing regulations that help to protect its sizable undocumented population. The state currently issues drivers licenses to undocumented residents, grants in-state tuition to undocumented college students and offers state-subsidized health care to children in low-income, undocumented families. Additionally, California removed the word "alien" from its state labor laws and passed legislation in 2013 that severely limits the abilities of local law enforcement to work with federal immigration officials.
"Immigrants are a part of California's history, our culture and our society," said Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) in a statement on Monday. "With this package of legislation we are telling the next Administration and Congress: If you want to get to them, you have to go through us."