Capitol Alert AM Newsletter

Detention center crisis + Discrimination in jury awards + Funding clean drinking water

Top of the Tuesday morning to you, California. Tips, feedback, suggestions, favorite Sacramento patio restaurant? Send ‘em my way:


Reports of inhumane conditions in Texas immigration centers are re-energizing campaigns to close detention camps in the Southwest.

An advocacy coalition is spearheading more than 150 protests across the country, including in Los Angeles, to demand the closure of these facilities.

The #ClosetheCamps organizers said they will demonstrate outside congressional district offices and ask members to close the facilities, refuse additional detention and deportation funding and visit the centers so they can see the environments themselves.

“These conditions are the product of a cruel and intentional strategy by the Trump administration to terrorize immigrant communities, criminalize immigration, and dismantle our asylum laws,” the group said in a press release.

Meanwhile — The investigative news organization ProPublica gained access to a private Facebook group of 9,500 current and former Border Patrol agents. It found a plethora of degrading postings that disparaged migrants and liberal politicians. Some called Latina lawmakers visiting detention facilities “hoes” and joked of paying an agent to throw a burrito at them. Others touted conspiracy theories against a viral photo of a father and his daughter who died trying to cross the Rio Grande.

Border Patrol’s parent agency, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, issued a statement calling the posts “disturbing,” and said it launched an investigation into the matter.

President Donald Trump has also rejected criticism of his administration, and pointed to a growing surge in the number of families attempting to cross the border. There were more than 144,000 illegal crossings documented in May.

Not just a Texas problem — There are more than 6,500 detained immigrants in California, according to Freedom for Immigrants, and 3,433 agents, per a Border Patrol career site. Though a sanctuary state with immigrant-friendly laws, Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s office released a report in February that revealed shoddy conditions in Immigration and Customs Enforcement centers.

“We will continue to do the work of monitoring any civil detention facility for immigration purposes,” Becerra said on Friday when I asked about California centers. “We will make sure (they) respect our laws.”

Representative Judy Chu, a California Democrat, tweeted similar accounts of sub-par treatment yesterday after a trip to a border facility.

“If you want water, just drink from a toilet,” she wrote. “That’s what border patrol told one thirsty woman we met on today’s #DemsAtTheBorder trip. These are the same CBP personnel who threatened to throw burritos at members of Congress. Changes must be made. #DontLookAway.”


The Assembly unanimously passed Senate Bill 41 on Monday in an attempt to protect individuals against racial, ethnic and gender discrimination when they receive damage awards in civil actions.

State Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, will present the bipartisan-approved legislation for a concurrent vote in his chamber before it heads to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk. The bill is backed by Consumer Attorneys of California, which wrote that statute should guard individuals against “game playing and manipulation of damages.”

The bill analysis cited the leveraging of demographic data by forensic economists when calculating damages in personal injury and wrongful death cases. People of color, women and other marginalized people can get shorted on awards because they historically earn less than other groups.

Hertzberg’s office referenced a 2016 case detailed in The Washington Post, in which a mentally disabled 4-year-old boy sought damages after living in an apartment with lead paint. Attorneys for the child sought $3.4 million, but because he was Latino and less likely earn a high income, the landlord’s attorneys countered with less than half that amount.

“Californians deserve a justice system that doesn’t let courts value people based on their gender or the color of their skin,” Hertzberg released in a statement. “This practice perpetuates systemic inequity, and it tells companies that if you do bad things in poor communities with disadvantaged populations, your financial liability will be smaller.”


The Assembly Committee on Environmental Safety And Toxic Materials is scheduled to vote on legislation that would finance clean drinking water initiatives in California today.

Senate Bill 200 would transfer $130 million from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund to the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund. The money is intended for communities that lack the facilities to deliver drinkable water, which affects an estimated 1 million Californians.

Today’s hearing is the first since Gov. Gavin Newsom and lawmakers signed a 2019 budget deal that appropriates $30 million from the General Fund, in addition to authorizing 11 years of gas reduction money to go toward safe water solutions.

Though Newsom signaled his support for the efforts in the budget, lawmakers have expressed skepticism that money otherwise intended for reducing gas emissions would fund California’s water issues.

The measure passed the Senate floor in May on a 37-1 vote, with state Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Red Bluff, against the bill.


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Hannah Wiley joined The Bee as a legislative reporter in 2019. She produces the morning newsletter for Capitol Alert and previously reported on immigration, education and criminal justice. She’s a Chicago-area native and a graduate of Saint Louis University and Northwestern.