Judicial Watch announced Tuesday that it filed an application for a temporary restraining order (TRO) against California Governor Gavin Newsom and his Director of the California Department of Social Services Kim Johnson. Judicial Watch requested the TRO to prevent the governor’s imminent spending of $79.8 million dollars of California taxpayers’ money for direct cash benefits to illegal aliens present in California. This action followed a lawsuit filed in the Superior Court of California County of Los Angeles by Judicial Watch on behalf of two California taxpayers late last month. “Governor Newsom has no legal authority on his own to spend state taxpayer money for cash payments to illegal aliens,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The coronavirus challenge doesn’t give politicians a pass to violate the law. If California politicians want to give cash payments to illegal aliens, they must be accountable and transparent, and, as federal law requires, pass a law to do so.”
Judicial Watch said that its TRO application was urgent because the illegal aliens are now able to immediately apply for the cash benefits without a judicial hearing first as to whether Governor Newsom possessed the necessary explicit authority from the California legislature to provide such benefits. “Without a restraining order, those funds will be spent, and there is no way of recovering them after they are distributed,” Judicial Watch’s TRO application said. Not surprisingly, however, the California court sided with Governor Newsom and the illegal aliens, denying Judicial Watch’s request for the TRO.
According to Judicial Watch, “Though the court found that Judicia[l] Watch was likely to succeed on the merits (that Governor Newsom had no authority under law to spend the money), the court found that there was a public interest in sending tax money to the illegal aliens during the coronavirus crisis.” In other words, the California state judge ignored the law and legislated from the bench to help Newsom accomplish a fait accompli.
Newsom was two for two in the California courts on May 5th. A federal judge upheld his ban on church assemblies in the interest of public health during the coronavirus pandemic, throwing aside First Amendment protections of freedom of religious expression and the right to assemble. “Constitutional rights cannot be suspended by a virus,” the church’s attorney, Dean Broyles, said. Evidently, in California they can be suspended along with legal constraints on Newsom’s spending authority.
Governor Newsom rolled out his cash giveaway executive initiative, known as the “Disaster Relief Fund” or the “Disaster Relief Assistance for Immigrants Project” (DRAIP), for illegal aliens on April 15th. His office issued a statement in which it anticipated that approximately “150,000 undocumented adult Californians will receive a one-time cash benefit of $500 per adult with a cap of $1,000 per household to deal with the specific needs arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.” The governor and his social services director also plan to spend an estimated $4.8 million of taxpayer funds overseeing and administering the distribution of those cash benefits.
California became the first state to offer such direct disaster assistance in the wake of the pandemic to illegal aliens. Philanthropic partners, including the Latino Community Foundation, will be distributing the funds through their networks and are raising additional funds on their own for dispersal to illegal aliens. But Judicial Watch is only concerned with the unauthorized giveaway of taxpayers’ money.
As of February 2020, California had $17.5 billion in reserves for economic uncertainties, according to a Legislative Analyst’s Office report issued in April. But the coronavirus pandemic threatens to not only drain this reserve but hurl California into a gaping financial hole amidst a severe recession. Newsom recognized the financial crisis he was facing. “This year I will be doing a May revise looking at tens of billions of dollars in deficit,” Newsom said last Friday during his daily coronavirus response briefing. “We just went tens of billions in surplus in just weeks to deficits.” Newsom wants a federal bailout even though he is squandering the hard-earned money of his state’s taxpayers on a cash giveaway to illegal aliens. The federal individual cash payments program under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, as well as the expanded unemployment provisions that increase benefits by $600, exclude illegal aliens as beneficiaries.
Under federal immigration law, 8 U.S.C. § 1621(a), a state “may provide that an alien who is not lawfully present in the United States is eligible for any State or local public benefit … only through the enactment of a State law … which affirmatively provides for such eligibility. (Emphasis added) Judicial Watch’s complaint alleged that the California state legislature has not enacted any law that affirmatively provides that such unlawfully present aliens are eligible for the millions of dollars of cash public benefits announced by Newsom.
Newsom is likely to argue that he has adequate legislative authority to make direct state payments to illegal aliens under the broad emergency powers that the legislature granted him in March to deal with the coronavirus pandemic crisis. But it makes little sense to assume that such emergency powers were meant to entitle the governor to spend as much money as he wishes on illegal aliens while California’s legal residents are suffering en masse. As state Senator John Moorlach, a Republican from Costa Mesa, said, “I see the state of California and its budget as a house of cards and with this coronavirus-induced recession. I’m just trying to figure out where the money would come from. I would say helping undocumented would be a luxury item.”
The Democrat-dominated California state legislature may well come to Newsom’s rescue upon its return from recess. Democrat leaders in both chambers have already indicated that a relief package for illegal aliens is under active consideration. Their passage of the authorizing legislation necessary to cover his new spending on illegal aliens retroactively is highly likely. California already provides taxpayer-funded health benefits to low-income illegal immigrant adults 25 and younger. California is also a sanctuary state.
Governor Newsom on more than one occasion has referred to California as a “nation state.” At times, particularly with respect to California’s non-compliance with federal immigration laws, California acts as if it were already an independent sovereign nation state. While there are some U.S. citizens who would be more than happy to see the ultraliberal state secede from the union, for now California is still part of the United States of America and does not have the power to nullify federal laws. Governor Newsom should also address the rising resistance to his draconian stay-at-home orders from California citizens rather than go about channeling scarce state funds to illegal aliens.
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