The American Civil Liberties Union sued the city of Los Alamitos on Wednesday, alleging its move this week to exempt itself from California’s sanctuary laws violates the state constitution and wastes taxpayer money.
The lawsuit filed in Orange County Superior Court comes two days after the Los Alamitos City Council approved a precedent-setting ordinance that exempts its police department from following the California Values Act, which limits police cooperation with federal immigration authorities.
While several Orange County cities and the Board of Supervisors have voted to challenge the state’s sanctuary laws, Los Alamitos is the only city to pass an official ordinance.
In a news conference outside of Los Alamitos City Hall, ACLU lawyer Sameer Ahmed said the city can’t simply decide to exempt itself from laws.
“The Los Alamitos City Council cannot pick and choose which state laws it will and will not follow,” he said.
City officials said they passed the ordinance because the state laws conflict with federal laws.
But in its lawsuit, the ACLU says “California law does not allow local officials to unilaterally declare a state law unconstitutional and decline to follow it on that basis.”
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit include Rev. Samuel Pullen of the Community Congregational United Church of Christ of Los Alamitos and members of the group Los Alamitos Community United.
Los Alamitos Mayor Troy Edgar said Wednesday that he had anticipated the lawsuit and will be estimating legal costs, though he said he believes the legal expenses are “worth it.”
“My mind hasn’t changed,” he said. “The state has overstepped its boundary on this very important constitutional issue.”
Los Alamitos pays outside counsel, Costa Mesa firm Woodruff, Spradlin & Smart, $225 per hour.
To help with legal expenses, Edgar created a GoFundMe page that has so far raised more than $11,000 — with a goal of $100,000.
The mayor said he has received contributions from both inside and outside the city.
The fundraising effort raised criticism from Councilman Mark Chirco, the lone opposing vote on the ordinance.
“I don’t think government by GoFundMe is a responsible government,” he said, in the Monday night meeting.
Staff writer Roxana Kopetman contributed to this report.
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