RIVERSIDE – After hearing impassioned voices on both sides of the issue, Riverside County supervisors approved a resolution calling on Congress to implement an immigration reform package that paves the way for nearly 1 million undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to qualify for citizenship.
“I’m trying to advocate comprehensive immigration reform,” Supervisor V. Manuel Perez, who wrote the DACA resolution, with the close support of Supervisor Marion Ashley, said. “I’m about youngsters who are our future … and I hope they can live out the American dream.”
Perez referred to the roughly 800,000 Central Americans who entered the country under the auspices of former President Barack Obama’s DACA executive order as “dreamers,” a title first applied under previous immigration reform plans that Congress either abandoned or rejected.
The DACA was implemented by Obama without congressional authority, in what critics derided as a push toward open borders, leading to multiple lawsuits. President Donald Trump in September announced that DACA and its implied protections would be phased out in six months. That deadline is March 5. There are at least half a dozen proposals under consideration on Capitol Hill focused on immigration reform.
About two dozen people addressed the board, roughly split down the middle in favor or opposed to Perez’s resolution, which stresses the need for “legislative solution to DACA that offers opportunities for dreamers to stay in this country … and contribute by becoming citizens.”
“You should not reward illegal aliens,” Agnes Gibboney said the board ahead of its vote. “They invaded our country. They’ve taken jobs from American citizens. We don’t owe illegal aliens anything. We owe American citizens everything.”
Judi Neal said support for Perez’s resolution was equal to “discriminating against law-abiding citizens.”
“I don’t want my taxes going to anybody but law-abiding citizens,” Neal said. “Our tax dollars are being diverted to people who are here illegally.”
Stella Stevens said a DACA amnesty would mean “taking money away from resources that should be put to American citizens,” repeating findings in a recent Congressional Budget Office report that showed amnesty would automatically entitle the recipients to billions of dollars in entitlements, including Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
Feliciano Gonzales said he “was brought to the United States when I was 2. I don’t know any other home. I love this country. There’s a better future. We’re not all bad people.”
Clarissa Chavez told the board she had lost a teenage friend to suicide, apparently stemming from his fear of being deported.
“Whatever you do affects our future,” Chavez said. “We should give equal opportunities.”
Several speakers were unable to speak English, while others struggled to find the words.
“Very, very important everybody vote in favor of community,” Luz Ayala said.
The board was initially divided after hearing the speakers, with Supervisors Kevin Jeffries and John Tavaglione unhappy with the closing language of the resolution. Jeffries felt it needed a concrete statement underscoring the board’s belief in “enhanced border security,” the need for immediate deportation of felons who enter the country illegally and wider use of E-Verify for employee background checks to confirm applicant’ immigration status.
When Ashley and Perez seemed uninterested in adding the language, Tavaglione said he wouldn’t accept anything less, citing the deaths of Kate Steinle and Indianapolis Colts linebacker Edwin Jackson to make his point.
Steinle was fatally shot on a San Francisco pier in 2015. The previously deported felon who entered the country illegally and confessed to killing her, Jose Zarate, was acquitted last year. Jackson was killed alongside an Indiana highway, along with an Uber driver, by an alleged drunken driver, identified as previously deported Manuel Savala. Savala also entered the country illegally.
“There are felons in this country who need to be returned to wherever they came from,” Tavaglione said. “I want to see strong immigration reform.”
The supervisor said the fact that previously deported offenders are killing people “really pisses me off.”
The resolution was amended and approved 5-0.