In a late-night vote Monday, April 2, the Huntington Beach City Council decided 6-1 to file a lawsuit against California challenging the legality of the state’s so-called sanctuary law.
The law limits cooperation between local agencies and federal immigration authorities.
While Los Alamitos voted in March to exempt itself from the law, Huntington Beach could become the first city in California to sue the state over the issue, Mayor Mike Posey said. The United States Department of Justice is suing California as well.
Posey and Councilman Erik Peterson put the item on the agenda, calling the California law “constitutional overreach.”
Council members also directed City Attorney Michael Gates “to work with the county or other municipalities that wish to join our efforts.”
Prior to the vote, more than 100 people spoke passionately about undocumented immigrants and sanctuary cities. Constant audience outbursts included insults about minorities.
Many of those in support of the lawsuit had traveled to Huntington Beach City Hall from other cities and even states — a detail often noted by the opponents.
“There are a lot of voices here that are not Huntington Beach taxpayers,” resident Wendy Rincon said.
“I am heartbroken, but not surprised, by the hateful rhetoric you brought forth with this resolution,” another Huntington Beach resident, Cynthia Valencia, said.
But resident Bill Martin quipped that he is “part of the hate circus” — as one speaker described the out-of-towners. “Open borders take away the identity of a country and of a city,” he said.
Peterson said the lawsuit is not about immigration but improper interference by state legislators. “We fight the state whenever we can when they overreach,” he said.
Jill Hardy, the lone council member who opposed suing, said that “out of 112 speakers, only four referenced the local control issue.”
“I am very concerned about the message this sends, even if it is not the message we intend,” Hardy said.
Councilwoman Barbara Delgleize choked up as she described her reaction to some of the derogatory comments about immigrants. “I’m heartbroken,” she said.
Still, Delgleize supported the lawsuit, saying the city’s police chief had expressed support for it.
“There’s rhetoric on both sides,” Councilman Patrick Brenden said. “If that’s ugly and uncomfortable, so be it.”
Posey said the city does not plan to hire outside attorneys to pursue the lawsuit.
Peterson summed up the council’s majority opinion: “We’re tired of Sacramento telling us what to do.”
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