By Ryan Torok, Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, appearing at an American Jewish Committee (AJC) event on Sept. 5, denounced the Trump administration’s decision to phase out an Obama-era program that protects undocumented immigrants who entered the country as minors from deportation.

“This is a day — a dark day — for this nation and for the city,” Garcetti said, addressing more than 100 people gathered inside Wilshire Boulevard Temple’s Glazer Campus Piness Auditorium during an event titled “Keeping Our Immigrant Communities Safe.”

Scheduled before it was known that President Donald Trump would deliver a decision about Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) that same day, the community event featured introductory remarks by Garcetti, who spoke over the occasional interruption by a protestor in the auditorium who stood with his back to the mayor.

“Sanctuary city now!” the young man said a few minutes into Garcetti’s remarks.

Garcetti, continuing to speak, called Trump’s DACA decision “un-American.”

The president’s order, announced hours before the AJC event, would on March 5, 2018, render some 800,000 young adults who qualify for DACA eligible for deportation. Garcetti, who is of Latino-Jewish ancestry, said the decision to phase out DACA is personal. He spoke of his family’s history of coming to the United States illegally.

“We didn’t have the term back then, but my grandfather, Salvador, was a Dreamer, carried over the border by my bisabuela, great-grandmother,” he said, standing behind a lecturn marked “Global Jewish Advocacy.”

At times raising his voice, Garcetti called on Congress to pass legislation that would codify the protections offered by DACA, a five-year-old policy.

“Thanks for the words, but it is time for Congress to act,” he said, referring to Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who have expressed support for so-called Dreamers but have not pushed for legislation to make their stay here legal.

Garcetti denounced divisive rhetoric about undocumented citizens, gesturing at the protestor with his back to him.

“Let us explode the myth of those who want to divide us and want us to divide each other,” he said. “We can’t afford that. We can’t afford to yell at one another and we can’t afford to buy into the myths.”

On the afternoon of Sept. 5, hours before the event began, AJC released a statement condemning the president’s action against DACA.

“Dismantling DACA is a devastating blow to hundreds of thousands of young people who have benefited from the program — and who have in turn contributed to communities across the country in which they live,” Richard Fotlin, AJC director of national and legislative affairs, said in the statement.

The local event featured introductory remarks by Garcetti, followed by a panel that included Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell; Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel of Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund; Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Horace Frank, and Los Angeles Times Staff Writer Cindy Chang. Dan Schnur, director of the Los Angeles region of AJC, moderated.

The panel devoted a few minutes to Trump’s plans to phase out DACA, then spent the remainder of the evening discussing how law enforcement and immigrant communities can maintain a level of trust between each other. That issue is at the core of SB 54, statewide legislation that, if enacted, would prohibit law enforcement agencies from sharing data for immigration enforcement purposes.

Inside the event near the back of the auditorium sat Rabbi Aryeh Cohen, a professor of rabbinic literature at American Jewish University’s Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies and part-time rabbi in residence at Bend the Arc in Southern California, a Jewish social justice organization. Speaking to the Journal, he expressed skepticism that Congress would be able to come together to pass legislation providing safeguards for this country’s Dreamers.

“It doesn’t seem that Congress can pass an act to tie their shoelaces,” he said.

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