San Diego County Joins Legal Fight Against California’s Sanctuary State Laws

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Will Racke Immigration and Foreign Policy Reporter
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San Diego County leaders voted Tuesday to join a Trump administration lawsuit against California’s sanctuary state laws, adding weight to the growing backlash against Sacramento’s resistance to federal immigration enforcement.

In a 3-1 vote, the all-Republican county board of supervisors approved a proposal to join the Department of Justice’s legal challenge to three California laws that limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities. The county will file a friend-of-the-court brief to the government’s lawsuit at the first available opportunity, board Chairwoman Kristin Gaspar said, according to Reuters.

The vote makes San Diego County, California’s second-most populous, the largest jurisdiction in California to formally oppose the state’s sanctuary state laws. Orange County, the state’s third biggest by population, approved a similar move in March.

San Diego County is bounded on the south by roughly 60 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border and is home to the world’s busiest international land border crossing at the San Ysidro port of entry. Its location makes it uniquely susceptible to the effects of lax immigration enforcement, supporters of the amicus proposal say.

“We’re talking about people who are crossing the border illegally, coming into this county and committing a crime and them being let loose probably to commit another crime,” East County Supervisor Dianne Jacob said, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune. “That creates a public-safety issue and creates a problem in our neighborhoods.”

The DOJ sued California in March over a trio of laws aimed at limiting the degree to which local officials and private businesses can cooperate with immigration authorities. The most publicized of the three, SB54, prohibits local jails from holding illegal aliens beyond their release dates for the purposes of transferring them to federal custody, unless the request is backed by a criminal warrant. It also bars police from asking about the immigration status of people detained in an investigation or a traffic stop.

Another state law under federal challenge, AB450, prohibits employers from voluntarily allowing immigration agents into “non-public” spaces on their property unless the officers have a warrant. The third law, AB103, prevents cities and counties from drawing up new contracts with the federal government to house civil immigration violators in local jails.

Under Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, and the Democratic-dominated statehouse, California has become the most prominent state to resist the Trump administration’s immigration enforcement agenda. The three laws targeted in the DOJ’s lawsuit were all passed in the last year in an effort to thwart the federal government’s crackdown on illegal immigration, which Brown and other leading Democrats say is an attack on immigrant communities throughout the state.

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Though the sanctuary policies enjoy wide support in many of California’s largest cities, some of the state’s more conservative enclaves are leading a growing backlash against the laws. Opposition is particularly strong in Orange County, where at least a dozen city and county councils have approved measures to either opt out of SB54 or join the DOJ lawsuit.

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