In an effort to make a case against the upcoming Gubernatorial Recall Election, Governor Gavin Newsom proudly recounted his pro-immigrant record this week to a crowd of working class community members in the city of Santa Ana, only to be underscored by Orange County State Senate Democrats who, days before, abruptly pulled support for a widely popular pro-immigrant bill that would limit ICE’s power in California – the VISION Act (AB 937 – Carrillo).

State Senators Josh Newman (SD-29) and Tom Umberg (SD-34) flanked Newsom at his campaign rally during the holiday weekend, nodding solemnly as Newsom listed out the many times he took a stance against Trump’s vitriolic attacks against immigrant communities.

“You look at the list of grievances on the petition. The number one grievance is immigration. The number one grievance is immigrants. The number one grievance was our defense against all things Trump and Trumpism,” Governor Newsom said during his stop in Santa Ana’s Valley High School this past Sunday.

Newsom talked about the strong legislation that makes California a safe place for immigrants, and warned his audience that a Republican nominee could easily undo years of progress. Alongside fellow Senate Democrat David Min (SD-37), though, Newman and Umberg are already undermining immigrant communities by turning their back on the popular AB937 bill that would prohibit transfers from police agencies to ICE, despite having previously supported the legislation.

Most disappointing of all is that Senator Newman dropped his support for the bill, despite being one of the VISION Act’s original co-authors and staying on when it passed the State Assembly and two State Senate Committees. It is ironic, to say the least, that Newman and Umberg were present at Newsom’s pro-immigrant rally, where he warned of Republican threats to immigrant rights.

The Governor’s visit was a strategic one. He was leaning into his pro-immigrant record to make a case against the recall in order to galvanize the Latino voters who could make or break his chances of remaining in office. Next to him were three OC Democratic State Senators who dropped their support for legislation that would end double punishment for immigrants who have served their time. It brings to question the usefulness of having these Senators present at a pro-immigrant rally. What was supposed to be a strong appeal to an important demographic, became a sloppy irony.

If Senators Newman, Umberg and Min do not come out in strong support of the VISION Act, they will not only be turning their backs on their immigrant and refugee constituents who propelled them to office, they will be hurting Governor Newsom’s strategy to rally the communities he needs most to save him from the recall. The Latino community, for instance, is already frustrated and showing signs of sitting out this recall due to their lack of enthusiasm for Newsom and his failure to meaningfully connect with them.

Even more concerning is the fact that all three Democrats pulled their support from the VISION Act after Chris Catren, the Vice President of California’s Police Chief Association, published a single misleading press release filled with racist dog whistles and anti-immigrant rhetoric to attack the bill.

To then turn around a few days later and stand proud at a pro-immigrant rally is an insulting political misstep that hurts Newsom more than his Republican opposition. What does it say about the Governor’s plea to oppose Republican threats, when his own party is siding with Trumpian rhetoric from police agencies that have historically opposed the types of pro-immigrant legislation Governor Newsom is supposedly proud of?

To set the record straight, the police chiefs’ press statement is incorrect about the Vision Act.

Immigrant and refugee groups rally outside Senator Newman’s office in Fullerton, CA to press him on the VISION Act. Credit: Tracy La

The VISION Act would ensure that immigrants and refugees are treated equally by CA’s criminal legal system, by ensuring that individuals who have earned release are not treated differently, simply because they were not born in the United States, and become subject to double punishment by ICE. The bill does not impact who is eligible for release from prison or jail or their release date, nor does it interfere with parole supervision after a community member is released.

The bill enjoys support from the California Democratic Party, the Latino Legislative Caucus, the Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus, the Black Legislative Caucus, and even the Democratic Party of Orange County. Who are Senators Newman, Min, and Umberg representing then, when they refuse to even vote alongside their own party?

Consequential immigration policy is important to people in the cities of Santa Ana, Fullerton, Anaheim and Garden Grove where ICE raids and immigration enforcement are amongst the biggest threats to family stability and community strength. On Tuesday morning, dozens of constituents and community members from Irvine to Buena Park rallied to call on Senator Newman to fulfill his original promise to support the VISION Act outside of his Fullerton office.

It would be wise for Umberg, Newman and Min to re-evaluate their commitments, and most importantly, their votes, if they seek to support Governor Newsom’s fight to stay in office.

Tracy La is a Santa Ana resident and executive director of VietRISE, a Garden Grove-based community organization that advances social justice for working class Vietnamese and immigrant communities in Orange County.

Hairo Cortes is a Santa Ana resident and Executive Director at Chispa, a political home for young Latinxs in Orange County standing proudly against the recall. An avid news reader and coffee drinker, you can find him spending his free time cooking and making playlists.

Opinions expressed in community opinion pieces belong to the authors and not Voice of OC.

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