California lawmakers on Saturday passed a “sanctuary state” bill to protect immigrants without legal residency in the U.S., part of a broader push by Democrats to counter expanded deportation orders under the Trumpadministration.
The legislation by Sen. Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), the most far-reaching of its kind in the country, would limit state and local law enforcement communication with federal immigration authorities, and prevent officers from questioning and holding people on immigration violations.
After passionate debate in both houses of the Legislature, staunch opposition from Republican sheriffs and threats from Trump administration officials against sanctuary cities, Senate Bill 54 was approved Saturday with a 27-11 vote along party lines. But the bill sent to Gov. Jerry Brown drastically scaled back the version first introduced, the result of tough negotiations between Brown and De León in the final weeks of the legislative session.
The decision came hours after a federal judge in Chicago blocked the Trump administration’s move to withhold Justice Department grant funds to discourage so-called sanctuary city policies.
On the Senate floor minutes before 2 a.m. on Saturday, De León said the changes were reasonable, and reflected a powerful compromise between law enforcement officials and advocates.
“These amendments do not mean to erode the core mission of this measure, which is to protect hardworking families that have contributed greatly to our culture and the economy,” he said. “This is a measure that reflects the values of who we are as a great state.”
Officially dubbed the “California Values Act,” the legislation initially would have prohibited state and local law enforcement agencies from using any resources to hold, question or share information about people with federal immigration agents, unless they had violent or serious criminal convictions.
After talks with Brown, amendments to the bill made this week would allow federal immigration authorities to keep working with state corrections officials and to continue entering county jails to question immigrants. The legislation would also permit police and sheriffs to share information and transfer people to immigration authorities if they have been convicted of one or more crimes from a list of 800 outlined in a previous law, the California Trust Act.
Some immigrant rights advocates who were previously disappointed with the list of offenses under the Trust Act, were dismayed to see the same exceptions applied in the so-called sanctuary state bill. The list includes many violent and serious crimes, as well as some nonviolent charges and “wobblers,” offenses that can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor, which advocates said has the potential to ensnare people who do not pose a danger to the public.
But immigrant rights groups did not withdraw their support for Senate Bill 54 and also won some concessions. Under the additions to the bill, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation would have to develop new standards to protect people held on immigration violations, and to allow immigrant inmates to receive credits toward their sentences serviced if they undergo rehabilitation and educational programs while incarcerated.
The state attorney general’s office would have to develop recommendations that limit immigration agents’ access to personal information. The attorney general also has broad authority under the state constitution to ensure that police and sheriffs agencies follow SB 54’s provisions should it be signed into law.
“This was a hard-fought effort, but the end product was worth the fight,” Jennie Pasquarella, immigrants’ rights director with the ACLU of California, said in a statement Saturday.
The compromise helped draw support for the bill from Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount), and moved the California Police Chiefs Assn.’s official position from opposed to neutral. The California Sheriffs Assn. remained opposed.
In a statement Saturday, Thomas Homan, acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said California politicians had “chosen to prioritize politics over public safety.”
“This bill severely undermines that effort and will make California communities less safe,” said Homan, who hosted a March town hall with Republican Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones on immigration enforcement that erupted in protests.
In their respective chambers on Friday, at least 20 members of the Assembly and six members of the Senate took the floor for debate on the bill, voicing complex stances on illegal immigration, federalism and the diversity of families in California.
Assemblyman Steven Choi (R-Irvine), a first-generation immigrant from South Korea, argued that he came to the U.S. legally and said the bill created “chaos” for a country built on law and order.
Others pointed to the opposition from sheriffs organizations, saying SB 54 tied officers’ hands, allowing serial thieves, chronic drug abusers and gang members to slip through the cracks. Supporters countered the Trump administration was trying to paint all immigrants in the country illegally as criminals.
They pointed to provisions in the bill that would make hospitals, schools and courthouses safe zones for immigrants from federal immigration authorities at a time of fear for some communities.
“We are ironically ending this session the way we started, talking about protecting the most vulnerable among us,” Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) said.
De León introduced SB 54 on what was an unusually acrimonious first day of the 2017 legislative session, as lawmakers in both chambers were locked in bitter debate over the still newly elected President Trump.
It was at the center of a legislative package filed by Democrats in an attempt to protect more than 2.3 million people living in the state illegally. Other legislative proposals and budget deals have expanded workplace protections against raids from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and increased legal defense services for immigrants facing deportation and financial aid for students without legal residency.
Senate Bill 54 received national attention as the U.S. Department of Justice pledged to slash government grants for law enforcement from any so-called sanctuary cities, which limit the collaboration between local and federal authorities on immigration enforcement.
In a statement Saturday, Department of Justice spokesman Devin O’Malley said “state lawmakers inexplicably voted today to return criminal aliens back onto our streets.”
“This abandonment of the rule of law by the Legislature continues to put Californians at risk, and undermines national security and law enforcement,” he said.
At the request of the California Senate earlier this year, former U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric H Holder Jr. reviewed the bill and said it passed constitutional muster, adding that the states “have the power over the health and safety of their residents and allocation of state resources.”
Still, debate raged on and divided even law enforcement officials and associations. In Los Angeles, Police Chief Charlie Beck voiced his support, while L.A. County Sheriff Jim McDonnell was a vocal opponent.
In a statement Saturday, McDonnell said the final version of the bill was not perfect, but “reflects much of what the LASD implemented years ago and the work is well underway.”
On Friday, lawmakers said some children without legal status were too afraid to go to school, while police statistics showed a drop in reports of sexual assault and domestic violence as immigrant victims refused to come forward.
Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) said the era was reminiscent of the 1980s, when her father dreaded immigration raids.
“We are not living in a hypothetical fear,” she said. “That fear is a reality.”
The Trump administration is under fire from LGBT activists and human rights supporters over a vote on Tuesday against a resolution condemning the use of the death penalty.
But it isn’t just this particular resolution or the current administration — the US has never supported any measure at the UN that condemns the death penalty.
Tuesday’s vote in the UN Human Rights Council was on a measure that would encourage member states to apply a moratorium to the use of the death penalty, noting in its preamble the way that it can be unfairly applied to women, the disabled, along racial divides, and against people engaged in “consensual same-sex relations.” That resolution passed by a vote of 27 in favor, 13 voted against it and 7 abstentions.
Coverage of the resolution has almost exclusively focused on it being the first on the death penalty to pass while mentioning LGBT relationships, which advocacy groups like the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association have heralded as “historic.”
The US was one of the 13 votes against, alongside Iraq, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, a point that led LGBT groups in particular to immediately respond, calling out the US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley in particular for her stance.
“Ambassador Haley has failed the LGBTQ community by not standing up against the barbaric use of the death penalty to punish individuals in same-sex relationships,” said Ty Cobb, director of Human Rights Campaign Global, in a statement emailed out soon after the vote.“While the UN Human Rights Council took this crucially important step, the Trump/Pence administration failed to show leadership on the world stage by not championing this critical measure. This administration’s blatant disregard for human rights and LGBTQ lives around the world is beyond disgraceful.”
But the resolution likely would not have seen a different vote from the UN under previous administrations. Though it lacked the portion highlighting LGBT rights, in 2014 the Obama administration abstained on a resolution at the Human Rights Council.
“International law does not prohibit capital punishment when imposed and carried out in a manner that is consistent with a state’s international obligations,” Ambassador Keith Harper said at the time. We therefore urge all governments that employ the death penalty to do so in conformity with their international human rights obligations.”
The US remains one of the few industrialized countries to still have capital punishment, which is legal in 31 out of 50 US states. In 2016, the US remained in the top ten among countries worldwide in terms of number of prisoners confirmed to have been executed, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
The US Mission to the UN has so far given no indication of its exact reasoning for being against this particular resolution, nor is it clear that Haley or the US ambassador based in Geneva issued the same sort of endorsement of human rights to soften the blow of the “no” vote.
The Obama administration abstained on a vote on the death penalty in 2014. A previous version of this article said that it voted “no.”
Tens of thousands of activists took to the streets of Catalonia in protest against police violence during the outlawed independence referendum.
Metro stations shut down in Barcelona and traffic, public transport and businesses were disrupted as pickets blocked dozens of roads after trade unions called a strike in the wake of the violence.
Nearly 900 people were hurt as police struck voters with batons and dragged them along the streets as they tried to stop the referendum on Sunday.
The vote had been deemed illegal by the Madrid government and the country’s top court, but was backed by the Catalan regional authorities.
Catalonia’s leader Carles Puigdemont told the BBC that the region would declare independence in a matter of days.
He said that his government would “act at the end of this week or the beginning of the next”.
If the Spanish government tries to intervene, he said it would be an “error which changes everything”.
In solidarity with Catalans, a few hundred people gathered outside Downing Street in London to demonstrate against the police violence and call for Spain’s prime minister Mariano Rajoy to resign.
On Tuesday, about 300,000 people took to the streets of Barcelona to march in protest, the news agency AFP quoted city police as saying.
Barcelona FC, the city’s football club, joined the strike, saying it would close for the day and none of its teams would train. Carmaker SEAT was forced to shut a production line.
To the north of Barcelona, a line of tractors moved down a road blocked to traffic, accompanied by protesters chanting “Independence!” and “The streets will always be ours!”
Groups of firemen marched and played bagpipes in Barcelona as people cheered them.
People entwined flowers into the gates of Ramon Llull school, where Spanish police clashed with those wanting to vote in the banned referendum on Sunday.
Barcelona tourist attractions such as museums and architect Antoni Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia church, were shut.
Outside Downing Street in London, activists carried placards which read: “Stop the repression. Rajoy must go” and chanted: “Rajoy, hear us say ‘State violence, no way’. Theresa May, hear us say ‘State violence, no way”‘.
Marc Delcort Fradera, who is based in the UK but returned to Barcelona to vote at the weekend, said he had felt moved to “mobilise” following the violence.
He said: “When I woke up on Sunday I just couldn’t believe. I was expecting some kind of repression by the Spanish police but I didn’t expect that much repression and violence.”
He added: “It’s (tonight is) the first demonstration I’ve been to. After what I saw yesterday and Sunday I decided I wanted to do something and start mobilising because something has to change.”
Catalonia, Spain’s richest region, has its own language and culture and a political movement for independence that has strengthened in recent years.
Pro-independence parties who control the regional government staged Sunday’s referendum in defiance of Spanish courts that had ruled it illegal.
Hundreds were injured on polling day when police fired rubber bullets and charged at crowds with truncheons to disrupt the vote.
Those who participated voted overwhelmingly for independence, a result that was expected since residents who favour remaining part of Spain mainly boycotted the vote.
Opinion polls conducted before the vote suggested only a minority of around 40 per cent of residents in the region back independence. But a majority wanted a referendum to be held, and protesters said the violent police crackdown against the ballot had energised the breakaway camp.
“What happened on October 1 has fired up independence feeling that will never die,” said 18-year-old student Monica Ventinc, who attended a protest on Tuesday.
Spain’s King Felipe VI gave a televised address to the nation at 9pm local time (7pm UK time) on Tuesday after he met the prime minister to discuss the situation in Catalonia.
He said the “irresponsible behaviour” of Catalan leaders put Spain’s economic stability at risk.
The king added that the state needs to ensure constitutional order and the rule of law in Catalonia.
He said that the bid by authorities in the north-eastern region to push ahead with independence has “undermined coexistence” in Catalonia.
“Today, Catalan society is fractured and confronted,” Felipe said, referring to the political crisis as “very serious moments for our democratic life”.
Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont has said the referendum is valid and its result must be implemented. Spain’s Constitutional Court prohibited the ballot, siding with Madrid which argued that it contravened the country’s 1978 constitution which bars breaking up the country.
The referendum has plunged Spain into its worst constitutional crisis in decades, and is a political test for Mr Rajoy, a conservative who has taken a hardline stance on the issue.
Outside of Catalonia, Spaniards mostly hold strong views against its independence drive.
Students at universities who identify with the LGBTQ+ community still face daunting challenges even though these institutions are viewed as liberal and progressive. This is according to Tish White, the program coordinator for sexual orientation and gender identity advocacy at Wits University.
White was addressing a group of students at the opening of Wits Pride 2017, an annual week long event to raise awareness of LGBTQ+ issues and to celebrate diversity at the university.
“Campus populations are just extensions of broader society and so we see that some people still carry a negative attitude towards those who are viewed as different,” said White. A challenge, said White, was that students attending university for the first time and “coming out” as gay or lesbian do not find the necessary support structures at the university. “That is why at Wits we started the Safe Zone project,” she said.
One of the main goals of the Safe Zone project is to help LGBTQ+ people at Wits feel safer. “Most of the time it’s just students coming to terms with the fact that they are coming out for the first time and they are feeling alone, feeling scared and they want to find others like them,” said White. “I truly believe that everyone at the university can work together so that we can change spaces for the better.”
As part of the opening a Queer Wedding was held on the steps outside the Great Hall. Zanele Hlonwane and Juliet Magatanatos participated in a mock symbolic wedding. “We stand here in pride, in solidarity and in defiance with what it means to be in a positive, beautiful and queer relationship. And if that’s not worth celebrating I don’t know what is,” said White as she officiated the ceremony.
Natasha [not her real name], a first year engineering student said that it was encouraging to see the LGBTQ+ people coming out and supporting each other at events like this because in the small community from which she’s from being lesbian is frowned upon. While staying in Johannesburg Natasha feels free to express her attraction to women, but hides her identity when she returns home for fear of being stigmatised.
A 2015 survey conducted by the Gauteng City-Region Observatory showed that only 56% of respondents felt that gays and lesbians deserve equal rights. This was a significant drop from the 2013 survey when 71% agreed with the statement. Even more worrying was that 14% of respondents agreed that it’s acceptable to be violent to gay and lesbian people.
Wits Pride 2017 will run from 21 to 25 August and will culminate with a Pride March at the Great Hall stairs on Friday.
KISUMU, Kenya — The sun had barely risen, but protesters were already bracing for another wave of confrontations with the police in the city of Kisumu on Saturday after an election disputed by supporters of Kenya’s opposition party.
As the smell of tear gas and smoke from burning debris clung to the morning mist, residents began assessing the damage from the previous night’s protests after the re-election of President Uhuru Kenyatta, a vote that many in this part of western Kenya believe was stolen, even though international observers concluded that it was fair and transparent.
In Nairobi, the capital, the opposition National Super Alliance Party claimed that the police were provoking violence and accused them of killing dozens of people nationwide, although party officials provided no evidence for their claims. Reports from news agencies put the death toll from violence overnight at 11.
The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, an independent organization, said Saturday that 24 people had been killed in election-related violence since Tuesday’s vote, including 17 in Nairobi. A provincial commissioner in Kisumu, Wilson Njega, said that at least one person had been killed in the city.
Hundreds of residents of Kisumu, an opposition stronghold, clashed overnight with the police, who, they said, cut off electricity to create confusion, sprayed live bullets into crowds, fired tear gas and blasted them with water cannons. The police, witnesses said, conducted house-to-house raids in parts of the city, and residents accused some officers of beating them with clubs and stealing money from them. The police in Kisumu declined to comment on the allegations.
“If the police are coming to beat us, we are ready for war,” Calvin Otieng, a Kisumu resident, shouted, waving a plastic bottle filled with flammable liquid, his eyes bloodshot. He had not eaten for days, he said. Large groups of men talked loudly on a major road that was blocked with rocks, burning tires and overturned market stalls. Some shops had been set on fire, their corrugated walls, still smoking, collapsed in a metallic heap.
“We are angry and we want to demonstrate,” said another resident, Ken Wamungu, 30. “But the police are not protecting our right to protest.”
Around midnight on Friday, Mr. Kenyatta was declared the winner against Raila Odinga, the 72-year-old opposition leader. The announcement was made after a long and bitter contest that was roiled by allegations of vote rigging, fears of violence and the unresolved murder of a top election official just days before the vote.
Throughout his campaign, Mr. Odinga roused supporters by warning that the election results would be manipulated. As ballots were being counted, he claimed that the electoral commission’s servers had been hacked — which he linked to the poll official’s death — to award Mr. Kenyatta a significant lead. Then, the opposition leader asserted that he had obtained secret information from the electoral body showing him to be the real winner.
So far, Mr. Odinga has not provided evidence supporting those allegations.
But tensions were ratcheted up when he refused to concede defeat, saying that the electoral commission had not properly addressed the opposition’s grievances before officially announcing the winner. He has urged his followers to remain calm, but he also said he did not “control the people.”
At the same time, top opposition officials have indicated that they are unwilling to resolve their concerns about election fraud in court, as they tried, unsuccessfully, to do after the 2013 election. Election observers warned that such comments could be interpreted by the opposition’s supporters as a call to protest. Many did.
Shortly after the announcement of Mr. Kenyatta’s victory was televised, riots erupted in major cities across Kenya. They were mostly in poor areas that are generally neglected by the central government, and where residents suffer from high unemployment and rising living costs. Many cannot afford to buy ugali, a staple food, or pay school fees for their children. “We are hungry and angry,” said a Kisumu resident, Steve Odundo, 22.
So far, the death toll is lower than feared, given Kenya’s history of electoral violence.
In 2007, elections that were viewed as widely flawed touched off bloodshed that left at least 1,300 people dead and 600,000 displaced. After elections in 2013, when voting systems were afflicted by widespread malfunctionsand there were again accusations of vote rigging, more than 300 people were killed. Mr. Odinga claimed that he was robbed of victory in both elections.
Many supporters of Mr. Odinga said they were angry that international observers, including former Secretary of State John Kerry, did not appear to take the opposition’s claims seriously.
The protests have also put attention on response by the police. Human Rights Watch called on the Kenyan authorities to exercise restraint.
They “should not use tear gas or live ammunition simply because they consider a gathering unlawful,” said Otsieno Namwaya, Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch.
At the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Hospital, named after Mr. Odinga’s father, an independence hero, six people were being treated for gunshot wounds and other injuries.
David Okoth, 32, was shot in the neck. His brother, Martin, said the pair had been eating at home when they heard a commotion. When they stepped outside, he said, “we saw a police car coming close by, spraying bullets at us.” One of the bullets hit Mr. Okoth, he said.
Moses Oduor, 28, had traveled to Kisumu from Nairobi to vote in his ancestral home. When young men started rioting, police officials began raiding houses in parts of Kisumu, yanking people outside and beating them, he said.
Mr. Oduor said he sustained broken ribs and a broken leg during a confrontation with police officers. The police also took his wallet, money and phone, he said. “But they threw my ID card back at me,” he said.
Jebel Ngere, a police official overseeing operations in Nyandala, a neighborhood in Kisumu, declined to comment on witnesses’ claims, but he said that many of the protesters were using the election as a pretext to loot. One local supermarket was vandalized, he said.
Protesters, armed with rocks, slingshots and machetes, were being pushed away from major roads and central parts of the city, which the police and soldiers were trying to secure, Mr. Ngere said.
But the protesters kept returning in waves, he said, taunting the police with rocks and other projectiles, before being forced to retreat again.
About 600 uniformed members of the security forces and plainclothes officers have been deployed in Kisumu, a number far greater than after previous elections, according to officials.
On one road in Nyandala, only soldiers and police officers were visible. Some were taking a break, reading newspapers. Others drank fizzy drinks at a shop, the only one open.
Suddenly, a rock was thrown at them from inside a maze of houses. Then another. Two police officials quickly took cover near some stalls and moved along the walls.
“It’s a cat-and-mouse game,” Mr. Ngere said. “But this time around, we have made proper arrangements.”
“Everything is prepared,” he said, in a somewhat ominous tone.
Venezuelan authorities quelled an apparent military rebellion early Sunday, a ruling socialist party leader said, the day after a new all-powerful legislative body condemned by the international community began targeting opposition opponents.
Socialist deputy Diosdado Cabello called the incident a “terrorist attack” at a military base in Valencia, a city west of the capital, Caracas. He wrote on Twitter that the situation had been brought under control and that several people were arrested.
His announcement came after the release of a video showing about a dozen men dressed in military fatigues and holding assault rifles declared themselves in rebellion and urged like-minded security forces rise up against President Nicolas Maduro.
Witnesses posted videos including what sounded like gunshots ringing in the dark at the Paramacay military base. After daybreak, neighbors gathered at the base entrance, cheering and singing the national anthem. At one point, they were dispersed with tear gas.
More tear gas was used against a spontaneous protest in a Valencia plaza. Helicopters belonging to security forces flew low over the base throughout the morning.
The military denounced a “paramilitary attack” and said seven men who had been detained were “giving up information.”
In the widely circulated video, a man identifying himself as Juan Carlos Caguaripano, a former National Guard captain, demanded “the immediate formation of a transition government.”
“This is not a coup d’etat,” he said. “This is a civic and military action to restore constitutional order. But more than that, it is to save the country from total destruction.”
Caguaripano was discharged three years ago, accused of conspiring against the government. He had been in hiding since. It was unclear if he was on the Paramacay base — and if so, how he might have gained entry. The rebellion was said to take place among troops from the 41st Army Tank Brigade.
A video later showed Bolivarian Army Commander Jesus Suarez Chourio — surrounded by troops he said were from the 41st Brigade on the base — declaring victory over the “mercenary paramilitary terrorist attack.”
“They assaulted us, but we suppressed them,” said Suarez Chourio, who is under U.S. sanctions for violently repressing political dissent.
(EDITORS: BEGIN OPTIONAL TRIM)
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who has been pushing for sanctions against Maduro’s government, said on Twitter that Cabello’s acting as the government’s principal spokesman on the incident “shows who’s in charge of security forces in Venezuela.” He called Cabello, who has long been the subject of allegations that he’s involved in drug trafficking, a “narco leader.”
Cabello responded that Rubio was the first “character” to “defend the terrorist attack.”
“Now we know where it all comes from,” he said, later calling the senator “Narco Rubio.”
“Diosdado ‘Pablo Escobar’ Cabello is unusually nervous and frantic this morning,” Rubio retorted.
(END OPTIONAL TRIM)
Cabello is among several socialist leaders threatened with being sanctioned by the U.S. in coming days.
On Saturday, a new constituent assembly elected under suspected fraud dismissed Luisa Ortega, the attorney general investigating the government, from her post and ordered her to stand trial. In response, the president of the opposition-held parliament urged the military to step in to restore the democratic order.
Late Saturday night, the government returned jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez to house arrest.