California lawmakers split on Ronald Reagan's legacy
It was no surprise Monday when the California Assembly easily passed its annual resolution naming Feb. 6 as Ronald Reagan Day.
The measure – recognizing what would have been the former president and California governor’s 106th birthday, as well as his contributions to, as author Assemblyman Dante Acosta, R-Santa Clarita, stated, creating “a safer, freer world” – received an overwhelming 59 votes.
But several Democrats rose to speak in favor of the declaration with their minds on a more current national leader, pointedly invoking some of Reagan’s signature accomplishments in a rebuke of President Donald Trump.
Assemblywoman Monique Limón, D-Goleta, praised his signing of a 1986 law granting amnesty to nearly 3 million immigrants who were in the country illegally. It was tied to new requirements against knowingly hiring undocumented immigrants.
“I still believe he had a great understanding of how we should treat our brother and sisters who have worked so hard to become Americans,” Limón said. “When I hear Republicans nationally champion his beliefs and values, I hope that they see the full spectrum and remember his inclusive actions on immigration.”
Drawing a contrast to Trump’s proposal to build a border wall with Mexico and his executive action temporarily banning refugees from entering the country, Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, D-Glendale, noted that Reagan used “diplomacy and compromise” in his efforts to end the Cold War with the Soviet Union.
“Thirty years ago, President Reagan worked to tear down a wall, to unite Europe and to provide safe passage for refugees fleeing communism,” she said. “Today, we have a president who seems eager to build walls, and one wall in particular in our state at any cost, to slam a door on refugees fleeing terrorism and seeking a better life.”
The resolution nevertheless received four no votes, all from Democrats, more than in previous years.
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, D-San Diego, was in no mood to recognize the “good things” that Reagan did, slamming him for ignoring the AIDS crisis and dubbing him the “King of Alternative Facts” for the disputed “welfare queen” story he used to target social services programs for changes.
But Gonzalez Fletcher, a former union leader, was most withering in her denunciation of Reagan’s actions to break a 1981 strike of air traffic controllers by permanently barring them from federal service. She said it caused lasting damage to the labor movement that has led to the country’s growing income inequality.
“I can think of nothing more mean-spirited than to tell 11,000 workers, ‘You’re out of your job today and you can never come back to vest in your pension or to get your health care benefits,’” she said.