SACRAMENTO — Three days into office as a new member of the California state legislature, some would be decorating their new digs and wading slowly into the policy pool.
Instead Assemblywoman Wendy Carillo is taking on an issue sure to put the Golden State at the center of another fight with the feds.
“The urgency of this moment in our nation’s history requires that we act,” Carillo said.
Carillo is talking about the urgent action she feels is needed to address President Donald Trump’s latest move against immigrants with a kind of current legal standing — his administration is ending temporary protected status for Salvadorans.
The only woman from El Salvador serving in the state legislature says this step is much more insidious than it appears.
“The president clearly told us who he was when he was campaigning. And whether you are undocumented, or whether you are a DACA recipient, or whether you are TPS — it’s all the same to him because it’s not the way he wants this country to look like,” said Carillo, a Democrat representing Los Angeles.
Though presidents Bush, Clinton and Obama have extended TPS as a humanitarian gesture for people who’ve come here after wars and natural disasters, many feel a measure designated as temporary should be just that.
Haitians, Nicaraguans and Hondurans have already had TPS provisions revoked.
The discussion of legal status resonates with this new lawmaker because of the nearly 50,000 Salvadorans — many in her own district — who call California home.
It also touches her personally, because at just 13, she learned she was not a citizen of the place she considered home.
“I think what I realized is just, uh, how incredibly separated we are and how your legal status or a Social Security card can make a huge difference in your future and the opportunities you have in this country,” she said.
Carillo’s family fled civil war when she was 5.
With nothing like TPS extended to her family, she applied and paid for the citizenship process on her own, succeeding eight long years later.
That’s not something she could have done under TPS — a misconception she wants to clear up.
“I’ve heard already people say, ‘They’ve been here 17 years, why haven’t they applied?’ Well it’s because you can’t. It would be unlawful because that’s not the way the law is currently structured,” she explained.
And while the situation may seem dire now, Carillo sees hope in the 2018 mid-terms.
“There could be legislation introduced that could allow TPS recipients to have access to residency and citizenship, if Democrats were to take back Congress,” she said.
In the meantime, Carillo is cosponsoring state legislation to create a legal defense fund for TPS recipients staring down 2019 deportations.
It should be introduced early next week.