Retired publishing executive Don Rosenberg has been working to draw attention to the issues of crime and illegal immigration long before President Donald Trump made them a central theme of his presidential bid.
Rosenberg’s son, Drew, was killed in a 2010 collision in San Francisco with a Honduran national who had entered the country illegally, but had been granted temporary protected status. After his son’s death, Rosenberg began researching the problem of unlicensed drivers on California streets and then, more broadly, issues connected to the state’s huge illegal immigrant population.
With Trump’s election, Rosenberg and the group he co-founded in 2017 — Advocates for Victims of Illegal Alien Crimes — found an ally in Washington who spoke in blunt terms about getting tougher on illegal immigration. He was one of 14 “angel” parents invited to the White House in June as part of an event highlighting the administration’s tough approach to immigration enforcement.
Rosenberg, a self-described lifelong Democrat, is now turning his attention to his home state of California, which over the past year has enacted a series of laws to shield illegal immigrants from the federal crackdown. Under the auspices of the grassroots group Fight Sanctuary State, Rosenberg has filed a petition to put the “Children, Family, and Community Protection Act” on the California ballot in 2020.
The ballot initiative seeks to end California’s status as a sanctuary state by overturning SB54, a law that limits the extent to which state officials can cooperate with federal immigration authorities, and AB450, which prevents private businesses from allowing immigration agents on to their property without a judicial warrant.
It would also mandate that law enforcement officers check the immigration status of people they arrest and require driver’s license applicants to prove they are legally present in the U.S.
Rosenberg spoke with The Daily Caller News Foundation about his group’s ballot initiative, California’s sanctuary laws, and his criticism of the way media covers crime committed by illegal immigrants. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Where are you in the process of getting the ballot initiative approved?
It was filed back in April. We received what’s called title and summary about a week and a half ago, which now allows us to now start collecting signatures. Now we have the information we need to be able to print the petition.
I’m not particularly happy with the way they titled and summarized it. But we certainly expect it considering it’s the attorney general [Democrat Xavier Becerra] of the state that gets to do that.
What happens now is that you have to print these things, which is massive, considering the nature of the state. And then volunteers and paid signature gatherers have 180 days to get the signatures. You have to turn everything and wait for the counties to validate the signatures.
In our case, assuming we get the signatures and they validate it, it would be on the 2020 ballot. Or, if there’s a special election in 2019, it would be on that ballot.
How many signatures do you need to make it on to the ballot?
In our case, we need about 400,000, but that means you need to collect about 600,000. You have to get significantly more to make sure the signatures that are not validated are covered.
Who is helping you and Fight Sanctuary State put this together and actually obtain the signatures?
There’s some staff people that do this. I don’t give out names, because especially in this environment, some of the people have gotten hate mail. The people that are working on this that do not legally need to be recognized, I’d rather keep it to themselves.
There are some professionals that are doing this. We’ll end up hiring a company to help get signatures, plus we’ll be using various advocacy groups all over the state that will also be out trying to gather signatures on a voluntary basis. It’s a grassroots effort, but it’s also a professional effort.
Ironically, the whole idea of the voter initiative was supposed to be all grassroots, but’s it’s been taken over by corporations. And the numbers have gotten so large. In our case, the number of signatures you need is based on the number of people who voted in the 2014 election. It’s a huge project.
What’s been the response to your ballot drive?
There’s clearly way more people who agree with us than the number of signatures we need — probably by a factor of 20 or 30. Massive numbers of people in the millions and millions support what we’re doing. But they have to be registered voters and you have to get them to sign the thing.
I’m not concerned on the level of “Are there enough people who will sign it?” I’m not concerned about that one bit.
Like so many things in the public sphere, a lot of people don’t even know that [SB54] happened. There was not a lot of publicity when it was being debated. I can tell you that over the last five or six months, when I talk to groups of people, even Democrats, they are flabbergasted that the state would do something like this.
Why do you think SB54 is a bad law?
Really, its main purpose is to protect criminals. Not people who have come here illegally, but people who have come here illegally and then committed additional crimes.
When people read it, they’re aghast. Why would you do that? Why would you protect somebody who’s committed a crime and shouldn’t have been here to begin with?
The one thing about California is that its legislators are much further to the left — I would say “out there” is a better term — than the voters in general. I’ve been a Democrat my whole life — it was only two years ago that I said “no more.”
The Democrats control the state. They have total power over passing every bill, and I think each guy is trying to out-crazy the next. They get away with it because there’s no real opposition [in Sacramento]. So things have gotten absolutely nuts.
What do you think of the media’s coverage of groups like yours versus its coverage of the Trump administration’s immigration policies?
Illegal immigration is the elephant in the room that nobody wants to talk about except when something bad happens to them. If it’s bad and it happens to somebody else, you’re a racist and bigot and a white supremacist if you bring it up.
Yet, the media, in the example of the family separation policy, was covering this thing 24/7. The LA Times should’ve changed its name to the Separation Gazette. Almost every story had to do with these separations — they were running the same story every day where they just changed the name. Today, it’s Jose who is six years old and afraid, tomorrow it will be Maria who is six years old and afraid.
But in our case, we were accused of being paid by Trump to come [to the White House]. We were accused that none of our loved ones were killed.
There were 14 of us there, and 11 [of us] had a child who had been killed before Trump even announced he was running for office. I’ve been doing this since 2011. Don’t tell me about Donald Trump. Nobody became active because of Donald Trump.
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