Meet 6 Unsung L.A. Heroes in the Battle Against Trump
Clockwise from top left: Nolan V. Rollins, Mark Rosenbaum, Lorri L. Jean, Cristina Garcia
Courtesy Nolan V. Rollins; courtesy Public Counsel; courtesy Los Angeles LGBT Center; courtesy Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia
The Trump administration has loudly threatened much of what Angelenos consider sacred — from the rights of immigrants, women and the LGBT community, to the preservation of the environment, to access to affordable health care — and L.A. residents have pushed back. Sometimes this resistance takes the form of sweeping displays, such as protests and rallies, but often it’s the quiet, steadfast work of a few that can bring the most dramatic results.
Here are six such people, whose contributions have become increasingly crucial in the months following Trump’s inauguration.
Mark Rosenbaum helped free an Afghan family caught in Trump's travel ban at LAX.
Courtesy Public Counsel
Mark Rosenbaum, director of Public Counsel's Opportunity Under Law project
After working with the American Civil Liberties Union for 40 years, Rosenbaum joined Public Counsel a little more than two years ago. He and his network of attorneys have spent the last few months on the front lines of Trump’s anti-immigration policies, defending DACA recipients and challenging travel bans in court.
“It’s just been a nonstop violation of the constitutional rights of individuals who were promised that they would be treated with respect and dignity, and who have made major contributions to the national security of this country,” Rosenbaum says.
On March 2, an Afghan family of five arrived at LAX with special immigration visas but were detained at the airport. The father, in his work as an on-the-ground interpreter for the U.S. government in Kabul, was repeatedly threatened while protecting American citizens, yet when he tried to touch down on American soil he and his family were not welcomed, according to Rosenbaum.
The attorney and his team sprung into action, securing a restraining order against the immigration agents attempting to hold the family and, ultimately, freeing them.
“Our second home is LAX since the travel ban,” Rosenbaum says.
Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia is pushing a "tampon tax" bill that would make menstrual products and diapers tax-free.
Courtesy Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia
Cristina Garcia, assemblywoman for the 58th District
In her fifth year as a state assemblywoman and her first as the chair of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus, Garcia has advocated for enhanced clean air standards, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and the protection of women’s rights.
She has introduced another “tampon tax” bill (after a failed first attempt) that would eliminate taxes on menstrual products and diapers. And she’s involved in complementary legislation that would offset the loss of tax income loss for the state with a higher excise tax on hard alcohol.
“Why I am being taxed for being born with a uterus?” Garcia says. “Periods don’t discriminate based on your income.”
Garcia also has introduced legislation that would provide free menstrual products in schools, universities and homeless shelters.
Trump has perpetuated the idea that women don’t have any self-agency, according to Garcia. She says that while she'd like to spend her time pushing for progress, she is forced instead to defend the gains made by women before her as they're constantly threatened by the Trump administration.
Aurora Garcia-Barrera, Southern California regional organizer for Health Access
Prior to Trump’s election, much of Garcia-Barrera’s work revolved around trying to expand the coverage and care provided under the Affordable Care Act. Now she’s trying to keep access to health care from plummeting.
“My day-to-day looked very different before November,” Garcia-Barrera says.
Health Access is a California consumer advocacy coalition that works to improve public health programs, advocate for patient coverage and secure protection and funding for programs such as Medi-Cal and Medicare.
Garcia-Barrera, who operates out of Health Access’ Glendale office, says that since January the coalition has hosted events every week, from rallies to town halls to candlelight vigils targeting certain members of Congress. “A slow week means we had two to three events throughout the state,” she says.
Garcia-Barrera also has helped spread Health Access’ #Fight4OurHealth campaign, which educates Californians about the importance of affordable and accessible health care and shares the stories of those who would be most affected by repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act. And she leads many of Health Access’ Regional Response teams, which are responsible for quickly assembling emergency actions when a new proposal related to the Affordable Care Act is released or scheduled to be voted on.
As CEO of the L.A. LGBT Center, Lorri L. Jean has worked to unite advocacy groups across different sectors and provide activists and allies with methods to mobilize against Trump.
Courtesy Los Angeles LGBT Center
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Lorri L. Jean, CEO of Los Angeles LGBT Center
A few weeks after Trump was elected, Jean sprung into action. With the help of her team, she reached out to 10 organizations that were most likely to be negatively affected by the policies of the Trump administration, from the the ACLU and the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles to Planned Parenthood. She wanted to establish a collaborative network that would help protect L.A.’s most vulnerable populations.
Jean also orchestrated a summit of 70 nonprofits, established a rapid response system for advocates to react quickly in the event of a crisis and worked to mobilize the masses desperate to take action.
“There’s a level of interest and fear and sometimes even a little bit of panic and urgency that I have not seen, frankly, since the height of the AIDS epidemic,” Jean says.
Coinciding with Trump’s inauguration and first 100 days in office, Jean's L.A. LGBT Center launched a “100 Days and Me” community engagement campaign designed to keep the public informed on developing legislation and policy, while also offering tips on how Angelenos can take action. During the month of March, “100 Days” has been focused on health care, and Jean has hundreds of volunteers manning phone banks and calling constituents in states including Alaska and Maine, where senators may be swayed into preserving the Affordable Care Act.
“If we only move three senators, we can block the dismantling of this vital health care act that is taking care of so many millions of people,” Jean says.
Jose Betancourt, right, with friend and fellow activist Milton Paez at the Women's March L.A., is rallying young people to support environmental causes.
Courtesy Jose Betancourt
Jose Betancourt, Sierra Club volunteer
Betancourt first got involved with the Sierra Club four months ago, when one of the group's organizers spoke at his school about its My Generation campaign. The campaign aims to power the entire state of California with clean energy and, in turn, create jobs and improve air quality.
Bettancourt, who's 23, attends ACE YouthBuild Charter School in Canoga Park, which serves students from the ages of 16 to 24. He says he was interested in what the Sierra Club had to say because his little sister has asthma and uses an inhaler every morning. He attributes her condition to L.A.’s poor air quality.
After school and on weekends, Betancourt attends Sierra Club meetings and tries to rally classmates to get involved. He was able to convince the 80 students at his school to attend a major vote at the South Coast Air Quality Management District, the air pollution agency that oversees regulations for much of Southern California.
Betancourt says he feels a responsibility to help give a voice to those who don’t have one and to advocate for the betterment of his community.
“Trump isn’t going to plant trees in our neighborhood and fix potholes,” Betancourt says.
Trump's proposed cuts to workforce development programs means L.A. will have to work even harder to keep jobs and revenue, according to Nolan V. Rollins.
Courtesy Nolan V. Rollins
Nolan V. Rollins, president of the Los Angeles Urban League
The Urban League focuses on creating employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for nonwhite Angelenos. To that end, it provides job training and placement as well as workshops on how to write business plans. It also tries to shape employment and economic policies on local, statewide and national levels.
For Rollins, it’s this last aspect of the Urban League's work that has become the most crucial during Trump's presidency. The Trump administration threatens to slash budgets of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as workforce development programs. Cuts to these sectors would impact communities at a local level, according to Rollins, because there will be fewer resources to train workers and to provide subsidized housing for the working poor.
“Hiring local workers and utilizing local small and minority-owned businesses is a critical component to our city's and county's economic success,” Rollins said in an email. “Investing in our people is going to be the only way that we will stabilize the local economy.”
In response, the Urban League is doubling down on efforts to maintain revenue for its programs by seeking the assistance of city and county officials, and is working with major job and revenue generators for the area, such as LAX and the ports, to increase opportunities for the working poor.
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