Coachella Mayor Steven Hernandez and State Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia spoke at a panel held in Coachella to discuss their intent to protect local populations from potentially detrimental legislation proposed by President Trump.

By Avery Wood

The panel concentrated on President Trump’s assertions about immigration policy that he has made throughout his campaign, such as to “begin working on an impenetrable wall on the southern border,” “move criminal aliens out day one” and “end sanctuary cities,” as outlined on
Assemblyman Garcia called President Trump’s plans to immediately deport undocumented immigrants “nearly impossible” because of the resources it would take, going on to say “from a practicality standpoint, we don’t believe it is real.” Garcia also asserted that significant deportations would be detrimental to the economy, saying that many industries depend on immigrants. As a solution, Garcia says “the state is proposing to provide public attorneys who can advocate on behalf of undocumented immigrants.” He adds that he “believe[s] we will see policies in which… people who are detained for minor infractions will not immediately be processed.”

Mayor Hernandez says, “We are seeing for the first time since 1988… not a single Latino on the cabinet… the cabinet he has selected is not in our favor,” mentioning in particular the selection of Senator Jeff Sessions as Attorney General. “We have to continue to be prepared for everything… be prepared to fight… be prepared for something ugly.”

The panel was an important forum to discuss these issues for Mayor Hernandez, who says that though there was increased Latino turnout on Election Day, he doesn’t see enough participation. “We need to continue educating our community… continue to form programs so we can keep informing our community,” he say, emphasizing the importance of being attentive to California legislation. Assemblyman Garcia wants California voters to be given the opportunity to vote about the wall planned for the southern border in particular, saying, “We have heard a lot about a wall… we proposed that California voters… have more of a voice. The sentiment is obviously against building a wall… we are very proud of the diversity.”

There is also concern that President Trump will order the cessation of federal funding to any sanctuary cities. The mayor spoke of Coachella’s status as a sanctuary city and what that means, saying, “from our pocket, we will not use a cent to support [federal immigration laws]” and that the city employees do not ask for immigration status. This is supported by Coachella city ordinance 4.04.037, according to the mayor. He also notes that “never in our presidential history have we heard… they will move in that direction… to affect sanctuary cities,” noting that if the city of Coachella were to lose federal funding, many essential things such as bridges, sidewalks, and water filtration systems could be affected.

Access to healthcare was a prominent topic at the panel, with the concern being that people will lose access to healthcare if President Trump repeals the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Assemblyman Garcia noted that the Coachella Valley has only one doctor per 8000 residents, with the ideal being one doctor per 2000-3000 residents. He says, “A proposal on our end is going to try to get more doctors to this area,” though there is no legislation prepared to address President Trump’s proposed healthcare reform since “the Republican Party continues not to give a clear proposal as to how they’re going to replace the ACA.  According to the Assemblyman, he and other state legislators are “preparing and developing a plan” to extend healthcare to undocumented immigrants.

When asked about what can be done about the increase in hate crimes that have been reported recently, both Assemblyman Garcia and Mayor Hernandez emphasized the importance of enforcing laws and reporting crimes, with the mayor adding, “As members of the community, we have to be responsible for reporting… you have your phones at hand… don’t be afraid.”

Both the mayor and the assemblyman stayed after the presentation in order to address individual concerns and questions and to mingle with the crowd from their hometown. The panel was organized by Building Healthy Communities, Coachella Valley. Congressman Raul Ruiz, also from Coachella, was invited but was unable to attend. Adriana Diaz-Ordaz, one of the organizers of the event, said that the group “decided as a coalition who to invite” and adds that “the east valley want[s] answers to legitimate fears.”