Why This California City Voted To Defy State’s Sanctuary Law

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Will Racke Immigration and Foreign Policy Reporter
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A small California city has voted to exempt itself from a statewide sanctuary law, making it one of the few jurisdictions to formally reject the state’s resistance to President Donald Trump’s immigration agenda.

City council members in Los Alamitos, an Orange County city of about 12,000, voted 4-1 on Monday night to opt out of Senate Bill 54, a law that went into  effect Jan. 1 and sharply restricts municipal cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

Although the ordinance is likely to be challenged by state officials and immigration groups, its supporters say it sends a clear message that the city is placing public safety over politics.

“This council is looking out for the constituents in our city,” Los Alamitos Councilman Warren Kusumoto said, according to the Orange County Register.

The law, which must pass a second city council vote scheduled for April 16, thrusts Los Alamitos into the national debate over sanctuary jurisdictions. The battle is particularly intense in California, which has emerged as the foremost state-level opponent of Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigration.

Under Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, California has enacted several laws that limit the ability of local governments and private actors from voluntarily assisting federal immigration enforcement. Earlier this month, the Department of Justice sued California over three of those laws — including SB54 — saying they interfere with the federal government’s prerogative to enforce immigration statutes. (RELATED: Here’s Everything You Need To Know About Sessions’ Anti-Sanctuary Lawsuit)

Even before SB54 went into effect at the beginning of the year, most of California’s major cities were already preventing local police from honoring federal immigration detention requests, known as detainers. SB54 applied those restrictions statewide, prohibiting county and local jails from holding criminal aliens for immigration agents unless the detainer is backed by an arrest warrant.

Kusumoto, who sponsored the Los Alamitos ordinance, says Sacramento is forcing local government officials to undermine federal law.

“California legislators are bullying local elected officials into violating our oath of office,” he said.

Los Alamitos is not the only pocket of resistance to California’s sanctuary law. The Shasta County Board of Supervisors approved a resolution in February declaring the county is not a sanctuary jurisdiction.

The Los Alamitos ordinance would likely face legal challenges if approved in the second vote. A representative of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) warned lawmakers that the group would back a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the law.

“They must follow state law, and I’m very disappointed they’re sending a message to immigrant communities that they want to be part of Trump’s deportation dragnet,” ACLU representative Cynthia Valencia said, according to KABC News.

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