The County of Orange and several cities in Southern California soon might join Los Alamitos in its bid to opt out of a controversial state law that limits cooperation with federal immigration officials.
Officials with the county as well as leaders in Aliso Viejo and Buena Park said Tuesday they plan to push for various versions of the anti-sanctuary ordinance approved in Los Alamitos late Monday by a 4-1 vote of that city council.
“There’s a pretty good amount of cities interested and they want to know about the process,” said Los Alamitos Mayor Troy Edgar, who spent Tuesday fielding calls and e-mails from officials in other cities and others interested in the push.
Immigration advocates said Los Alamitos and cities and counties that follow its opt-out ordinance will be violating state law and at risk of litigation.
But Los Alamitos’ anti-sanctuary push also received wide attention in conservative media, and gained support from those who don’t agree with California’s protective stance on all immigrants, regardless of legal status.
Orange County Supervisor Michelle Steel soon plans to introduce an opt-out ordinance to the county Board of Supervisors, her spokeswoman said in an e-mail.
“I thank the City of Los Alamitos for standing up for its citizens and rejecting the so-called ‘sanctuary’ legislation passed in Sacramento, and I urge the County of Orange and all of our cities to do the same,” Steel said in a news release.
Steel was one of a handful of Republican leaders who last week met face-to-face with President Donald Trump when he visited Southern California.
In Aliso Viejo, Mayor Dave Harrington said his council plans to discuss similar action at its April 4 meeting.
“It is a great thing what they did,” Harrington said of the Los Alamitos vote. “I think they were spot-on; that we take the oath of office to uphold the Constitution of the United States.”
Buena Park Councilwoman Beth Swift said she plans to request at the next council meeting for the issue to be placed on a future agenda for discussion.
Robin Hvidston, executive director of the Claremont-based We the People Rising, said she has heard from residents in Upland and Fullerton who want to approach their councils to suggest the same.
Another city that had been discussing something similar, even before Los Alamitos’ vote, is Huntington Beach, according to Assemblyman Travis Allen, a Republican who represents both Huntington Beach and Los Alamitos.
“Tiny Los Alamitos has kicked open the door and now other cities across California are looking to get onboard and stand up against the illegal sanctuary state,” Allen, who is running for governor, said Tuesday.
More than half of Los Alamitos’ 11,700 residents are white and about 2,700 are Latino, according to census data. The median household income is close to $81,000.
Los Alamitos Councilman Warren Kusumoto said he introduced his city’s ordinance because state officials are “bullying” city leaders into choosing between a state law over federal law, forcing them, in his view, to violate their oath of office to defend the U.S. Constitution.
California’s Senate leader Kevin de León, who authored Senate Bill 54, defended the state law and said it complies with federal law.
The council’s “symbolic vote in favor of President Trump’s racist immigration enforcement policies is disappointing,” de León said in an e-mail.
“Local governments that attempt to break state law will saddle their residents with unnecessary and expensive litigation costs.”
The ACLU of Southern California and other organizations warned Los Alamitos that should the city adopt the new local law, scheduled for a final vote on April 16, it will open itself up to lawsuits.
“This is the first ordinance that I’m aware of that explicitly says ‘We’re going to violate the state of California law’,” said Sameer Ahmed, an ACLU staff attorney.
The California Values Act, which took effect, Jan. 1, limits the involvement of state and local law enforcement agencies in federal immigration enforcement. That includes limits on notifying federal immigration officials when potential deportees are released from local custody.
It also includes provisions to protect immigrants in public schools, libraries and health facilities. It bars local law enforcement in California from offering permanent office space to immigrant agents in jails. And it prohibits using local law enforcement to do the work of immigration agents, as was until recently done in Orange County.
“A lot of people unfortunately think the California Values Act is just about handing over dangerous people to ICE authorities. But it’s so much more. It’s about protecting immigrant communities, immigrant children in schools, immigrant workers and families,” Ahmed said. “That’s why the law is very important.”
The law is part of a broader push in California to protect immigrants during a time when federal immigration authorities are casting a wider net.
This month, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions filed a lawsuit against California, citing three state laws, including the California Values Act, as unconstitutional.
John Eastman, a Chapman University Law School professor, said federal law prohibits states from barring state and local officials from cooperating with immigration officials.
“It is California’s law that is illegal,” Eastman said in an e-mail.
At the Los Alamitos council meeting Monday night, more than 150 people turned out to express support and opposition to the city’s move. At times, some in an overflow crowd outside City Hall grew testy and verbally confrontational. After the council voted, the crowd broke out into competing chants and cheers.
Kusumoto and Edgar joined council members Shelley Hasselbrink and Richard Murphy in support of the new local law. Councilman Mark Chirco voted against it, saying adopting the new law would lead to litigation.
Staff writers Tomoya Shimura, Ian Wheeler, Alicia Robinson and Susan Goulding contributed to this report.
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