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Senator-Elect Harris Meets With Immigrants, Vows To Protect Rights

Senator-elect Kamala Harris speaks to supporters on election night, Nov. 8, 2016.
Maya Sugarman / KPCC
Senator-elect Kamala Harris speaks to supporters on election night, Nov. 8, 2016.

Senator-elect Kamala Harris met with immigrant leaders in Los Angeles Thursday, telling them she will fight to preserve protections advocates fear could be dismantled once Donald Trump becomes president.

Harris said she has already begun communicating with colleagues in Congress about what can be done to protect initiatives such as Obama's executive action to give legal status to undocumented children.

That policy allowed immigrants who met certain age and education requirements to gain legal status and work authorization. It was enacted through an order that can be undone by any president in the future.


RELATED: Cross-Border Region Reacts To Trump Victory With Fear

The current attorney general made her remarks surrounded by immigrants holding campaign signs that read "Fearless for the People" and star-shaped balloons covered in prints of the U.S. flag. Some chanted "No papers, no fear" and "We will not be moved!"

"Part of what we are here to say is, 'You are not alone,'" Harris said.

Harris was elected Tuesday to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer. She will be the first Indian woman elected to a Senate seat and the second black woman.

Speaking with leaders from the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, Harris said California has an outsized stake in the outcome of any federal action on immigration because of the state's large immigrant population. More than a quarter of California's population was born in a foreign country, according to U.S. Census figures.


During his campaign, Trump called Mexican immigrants "rapists" and advocated for mass deportations. During his victory speech he took struck a more conciliatory tone and called for unity.

Harris told immigrant leaders she had faith in comments made after the election in which members of both parties have vowed to work together and promised to work on passing immigration reform.

As attorney general, Harris' office sent a bulletin to California law enforcement agencies on Thursday encouraging them to remain vigilant and respond to any reports of hate crime activity.

Authorities at San Diego State University reported a female student wearing a hijab was attacked Wednesday in a parking complex. According to the university's police department, two suspects targeted the woman because of her faith and made comments about Trump's election. The woman was not injured. Investigators said her car keys were stolen and that the vehicle was later reported missing.

In a separate immigration event Thursday, advocates for day laborers announced they were starting a website to help people learn how to protect themselves from unlawful searches and detention and fight against Trump's promise of an immigration crackdown.

Advocates also called for a popular assembly in Los Angeles next week to discuss plans for resistance and protecting immigrant families.

"I want to send a very clear message to Mr. Trump and his supporters," Pablo Alvarado, director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, said at a press conference in Los Angeles. "We don't hate you, but we don't fear you either."