Two more Orange County cities jumped on the anti-sanctuary bandwagon: Aliso Viejo and San Juan Capistrano. Fullerton, meanwhile, is choosing to sit it out.
They join a growing number of cities looking to side with the Trump administration in fighting three new California laws that offer protections to people living in the country illegally.
But there’s also now some pushback.
On Tuesday, the San Gabriel City Council voted 3-2 to approve a “safe cities” resolution. In Santa Ana, which declared itself a sanctuary city last year, the council on Monday voted to back California in court in its fight with the feds.
And in West Covina, during a particularly contentious meeting Tuesday night, the council considered siding with the federal lawsuit but instead took no action.
The federal government is suing California over laws that limit the ability of local law enforcement and businesses to work with immigration agents and also allow the state to review conditions in federal facilities holding people on immigration-related matters.
In Aliso Viejo, the issue brought a divided crowd on Wednesday night that waited through some six hours of public comments.
“Unless we see data that points to sanctuary cities improving our lives, then it’s not in our best interest,” said Daniel Wood, an Aliso Viejo resident waiting outside City Hall, part of an overflow crowd of pro- and anti-sanctuary participants who often broke into opposing chants, including the Trump-inspired “build the wall.”
The Aliso Viejo council voted 4-1 to file friend-of-the-court briefs to support the efforts of the federal government, the Orange County Board of Supervisors and the cities of Los Alamitos and Huntington Beach. Councilman Ross Chun was the lone dissenter, noting several concerns, including potential costs.
The Aliso Viejo council also voted 4-1, with Councilman Phillip Tsunoda dissenting, for a resolution to “adhere to the rule of law,” support local law enforcement and demand that Congress address “the need for comprehensive immigration reform and bring certainty to those who are desirous of becoming part of this experiment we call Democracy.”
Resolutions, a mostly symbolic move, have been the option of choice for many cities voicing opposition to California’s sanctuary laws.
In San Juan Capistrano, the council voted 4-1 Tuesday to adopt a resolution that condemns state law that city leaders argue endangers public safety.
Mayor Sergio Farias was the lone dissenting vote, saying the matter fell far from what the council ought to be spending its time on.
“As mayor, I’m mayor of everyone who calls San Juan Capistrano home, regardless of their legal status,” Farias told the audience.
On Tuesday, the Fountain Valley City Council also agreed to file a friend-of-the-court brief with the Trump administration lawsuit that claims California’s laws contradict federal law and are unconstitutional. Other cities that have done the same are Yorba Linda, Mission Viejo, and — on Wednesday — Escondido.
In Fullerton, the City Council majority agreed Tuesday to take no stance on whether it would support the U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit against California.
Councilwoman Jennifer Fitzgerald wanted her city to show support for the federal lawsuit, calling the state laws “constitutional overreach.”
But Mayor Doug Chaffee said he didn’t want to spend money on what he said was a polarizing move against measures that don’t affect his city.
“Sanctuary city laws have no impact on Fullerton,” Chaffee told the crowd, where most of the speakers spoke in favor of immigrants and in support of California’s laws.
While a handful of communities passed resolutions as early as last year condemning the California Values Act law, it was a vote March 19 by the Los Alamitos City Council that made national news and inspired other cities to take action. The Los Alamitos council took the first step to adopt an ordinance to exempt the small city from what’s known as California’s sanctuary law and a final vote is expected later this month.
That prompted the Orange County Board of Supervisors to join the federal lawsuit against California.
Those who support such moves say it’s needed to uphold law and order and make sure that local law enforcement have the tools needed to combat crime, including full cooperation with ICE, or Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers.
Those who oppose such moves call it xenophobic, costly and unnecessary, feeding a narrative they say is not true because the state laws do not prohibit all communication between federal and local agencies.
How much these moves could cost were on the mind of many residents speaking at the various council meetings.
Fountain Valley paid $3,000 in legal fees for the matter to be on the agenda because the city doesn’t have a staff attorney, said Councilwoman Cheryl Brothers. In Huntington Beach and Aliso Viejo, officials said the actions would be handled by staff attorneys and they claimed there would be no extra costs. In Los Alamitos, which may be sued if it gives final approval to the law, city staff is reviewing potential costs. Meanwhile, Los Alamitos Mayor Troy Edgar has opened a GoFundMe page, which as of Thursday night raised under $7,700 toward its goal of $100,000.
Staff writers Susan Goulding and Chris Yee contributed to this report.
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