While visiting a state-funded migrant center that provides services to asylum seekers near Imperial County’s border with Mexico on Monday, Gov. Gavin Newsom slammed Republicans in Congress for politicizing the immigration while not supporting comprehensive reforms.
Due to lack of federal support, the governor said the state has spent nearly $1 billion working with nonprofits to provide immigrants released from federal custody with health screenings, temporary shelter and assistance in connecting with sponsors over the past three years at nine facilities in Imperial, San Diego and Riverside Counties.
“As far as the federal government is concerned, we’ve been doing their job for a few years on a large scale,” Newsom said. “But we cannot continue to take on this responsibility.”
The governor visited the center before finalizing his budget proposal for the coming fiscal year. The state faces fiscal pressure from an anticipated budget shortfall and, at the same time, a potentially greater need for immigrant support services amid changes to federal policy for asylum seekers, did he declare.
“Everyone needs to leave their ideological perch and start facing reality in a holistic way,” Newsom said. He criticized the GOP and conservative news pundits for exploiting immigration as strictly a border security issue and ignoring the need for sweeping reform.
In November, a federal judge struck down a controversial border policy known as Title 42, a public health law used by the Trump administration during the COVID-19 pandemic to allow border agents to deport migrants.
Newsom, who crossed the border earlier in the day to visit a Mexicali shelter, made the trip as he continues his push into the national conversation on the issues at the center of America’s culture wars, raising his profile as a voice preeminent Democrat and intensifying speculation about his political aspirations.
Dan Schnur, who teaches political communication at USC and UC Berkeley, said all governors with large immigrant populations should have a say in the debate. In California, immigrants make up one-third of the workforce.
Governors with an eye on the White House may have an added incentive, he said.
“This is another example of how Newsom can both support Biden for re-election, but also prepare for a national role later,” Schnur said.
Newsom applauded President Biden for introducing an immigration reform agenda early in his presidency and centered his criticism on Congress for not allocating more money to support migrants.
The state began funding services in 2019 for immigrants arriving in California after the Trump administration ended a program to connect asylum seekers with family members in the United States, said the governor’s office.
“It was based on conversations I had on the campaign trail with people saying, ‘We drop the kids alone at the Greyhound bus station at night, and they sleep rough,'” Newsom said, adding that the lack of government support has also made children and families vulnerable to human trafficking.
In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the state stepped up efforts in 2021 and began working with nonprofits to fund facilities that offer immigrants health screenings; vaccinations against COVID-19 and influenza; and basic carriers, such as clothes and toothbrushes. The governor’s office said the three counties served more than 200,000 migrants and provided 36,316 vaccinations.
Some of the facilities provide temporary housing, and nonprofits work with immigrants to help them establish travel connections to more permanent destinations or relocate them to local shelters.
Center workers said Monday that ICE transports migrants to ports of entry, and the state and nonprofits then transport them to facilities. Immigrants were seated in a large room, where they received health checks and discussed other pressing needs with staff.
Pedro Rios, director of the US-Mexico border program for the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization that advocates for immigrants, said state funding has helped support a “small but robust” network of shelters in San Diego County. .
The shelter system has helped families move “from a state of vulnerability to greater security”.
“Through these efforts, many migrant families have received medical care and legal support that they would not otherwise have access to,” he said in an email.
Kate Clark, senior director of immigration services at the Jewish Family Service in San Diego, said she believes California, along with other border states, will see an increase in the number of immigrants arriving in the region after the waiving of title 42.
The organization operates migrant shelters in San Diego County and has received state funding for the work.
“The state has really been an incredible partner in this work,” she said.
The Newsom administration said the need for such services could increase following a federal judge’s order ending a controversial Trump-era policy later this month that allowed border agents to turn back migrants. during the pandemic.
Under a decades-old health law known as Title 42, the Trump administration has been able to use the pandemic as a reason to reject migrants at the border without offering them the opportunity to seek asylum or residency. other humanitarian protections. Biden announced plans to lift the public health order in April and faced legal challenges from Republican states who argued it would create chaos.
A federal court sided with the American Civil Liberties Union in a challenge to the law in November, which will pave the way for immigrants to again invoke fear of being sent back to their country of origin in order to access asylum protections in the United States.
In California, the extent to which Newsom intends to fund support services for asylum seekers and other immigrants is an open question, as the state projects a budget shortfall of $24 billion in the next fiscal year. The governor is expected to release his spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year in January.
Although the Newsom administration in May forecast a surplus of $97 billion by summer, the Federal Reserve’s efforts to raise interest rates to curb inflation led the Analyst’s Office legislative to predict the weakest economic performance “that the state has experienced since the Great Recession”. Revenue is expected to be $41 billion lower than forecast in the current fiscal year and through summer 2024.
Knowing that California’s fiscal peak would eventually end, Newsom and lawmakers limited much of the current budget money for new programs to one-time funding. The LAO said the state should be able to cover almost all of the deficit with its general purpose budget reserves.
But fiscal analysts have warned the deficit could rise if the U.S. economy plunges into a full-scale recession and advised lawmakers to seek to pause, delay and reassess some fiscal priorities. The governor and state lawmakers have already approved plans to expand Medi-Cal eligibility to all immigrants in 2024, which Newsom doubled down on Monday.
“I committed to it,” he said.
Newsom’s appearance on the border makes him one of the most high-profile Democrats to make the trip recently at a time when Republicans seized on immigration as a political issue and fought for hammer the Biden administration and Democratic leaders.
Biden visited Arizona last week and came under fire from Republicans for not stopping at the border, something he hasn’t done since taking office in 2021. The president has traveled to Arizona to visit a Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. plant in Phoenix as the company announced plans to develop a second facility and invest more than $40 billion in the state.
Newsom traveled to El Salvador in 2019 to better understand the forces driving immigration to the United States. His embrace of the Central American country contrasted with then-President Trump’s efforts to roll back protections against the deportation of Salvadorans and threats to cut off foreign aid.
California Daily Newspapers