L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti met Wednesday with the Mexican secretary of foreign relations, Claudia Ruiz Massieu.
L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti met Wednesday with the Mexican secretary of foreign relations, Claudia Ruiz Massieu.
Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores, Mexico

Garcetti in Mexico: We Will Build Bridges, Not Walls

It was a performance John Podesta could be proud of.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti turned his trip to Mexico for a climate change summit into a kind of goodwill mission to reassure a Mexican public anxious over President-elect Donald Trump's victory that Los Angeles remains a city that “is open and inviting to immigrants, and always will be."

“We will not build walls, we will build bridges,” Garcetti told a gathering of reporters from national news outlets in Mexico City on Wednesday.

Garcetti answered questions from reporters at a public event, standing alongside Mexico's secretary of foreign relations, Claudia Ruiz Massieu.

Switching back and forth from Spanish to English, Garcetti acknowledged that fear of a Trump presidency is prevalent among the millions of Mexican-born residents of Los Angeles. He fielded questions about the role of Los Angeles police in the enforcement of immigration law, and the possibility that Trump as president could withhold federal funding if the city fails to embrace a more draconian enforcement of federal immigration policy.

Garcetti reiterated his view that police in Los Angeles are not responsible for carrying out federal immigration policy, and he said that LAPD officers will neither participate in immigration raids nor inquire into an individual’s immigration status, unless required to by a judge’s order.

Immigrant advocates in L.A. have long warned that the LAPD risks losing the trust of the city’s multiethnic communities if it is perceived as the local arm of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“The city of Los Angeles is and will continue to be a city that welcomes immigrants," Garcetti said, as quoted in Mundo Hispano, an online news outlet in Mexico. “We don’t know what the future holds in store, but I want to say loud and clear that I am committed to guaranteeing the safety of all under my charge.”

Ruiz Massieu, in her remarks at the event, said that L.A. County is home to 3.7 million people of Mexican origin, making it the second-largest Mexican community in the world, after Mexico City. Massieu also mentioned the cooperation between L.A. and the Mexican Consulate in Los Angeles to help nearly 60,000 Mexico-born permanent residents in this country to become U.S. citizens.

Connie Llanos, the mayor’s press secretary, confirmed the figure of 60,000 in an email to L.A. Weekly. Llanos said the mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs has made it a priority to help Angelenos who are permanent legal residents apply for U.S. citizenship.

Ruiz Massieu announced that 2017 will be the Year of Mexico in Los Angeles, referring to a calendar of art and cultural events, a collaboration between the Mayor's Office and the Mexican Consulate of Los Angeles.  She said 700,000 jobs depend on amicable bilateral relations between Mexico and California.

Garcetti was in Mexico City to attend the C40 Mayors Summit, convened to discuss urban policy that addresses climate change. The C40 is an alliance of mayors from 86 cities around the globe; collectively they are responsible for about half of the world’s carbon emissions.

Garcetti also met privately with Ruiz Massieu and Mexico’s undersecretary of foreign relations for North America, Paulo Carreño, to discuss immigration.

On the campaign trail, L.A. Mayor Garcetti stressed his multiethnic background of Italian, Jewish and Mexican, once referring to himself as a "kosher burrito." But he prefaced his statement in Mexico City by touting his Mexican bona fides.

As the grandson of Mexican immigrants, he said he considers himself “chilango,” a colloquial word that refers to residents of Mexico City. Garcetti’s grandmother, Juanita, was born to immigrant parents from Sonora, a state in the north of Mexico that shares a border with Arizona. His grandfather, Salvador, was born in Parral, Chihuahua, during the Mexican Revolution, he said.

This is Garcetti’s second visit to Mexico as mayor of L.A. In 2014, he met with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in Mexico City. Garcetti returned to L.A. on Wednesday night.

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