Resistance to California’s new sanctuary city laws grew this week as Orange County voted to join a federal lawsuit trying to block the laws, and the county’s sheriff said she will post information on every inmate’s release so the Homeland Security Department can see if there is anyone it wants to deport.
The Who’s in Jail database could provide a model for other law enforcement agencies chafing under SB54, the law that took effect this year prohibiting police or sheriffs from informing federal agencies when illegal immigrants are to be released.
By posting the entire list of inmates and release times, the department says, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement can get the information without the sheriff’s office having to communicate specifically.
The county’s board of supervisors added its voice to the resistance as well, voting Tuesday to condemn SB54 and asking county attorneys to join the Trump administration in a lawsuit seeking to block SB54 and two other sanctuary laws.
“We’re not talking here about law-abiding immigrants; we’re talking about criminals,” said Michelle Steel, a board member and an immigrant. “This SB54 is unconstitutional.”
Meanwhile, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra would not rule out taking action of his own against officials who fight the laws, including the sheriff.
“State law is state law. It’s my job to enforce state law and I will do so. We want to make sure that every jurisdiction, including Orange County, understands what state law requires of the people and the subdivisions of the state of California,” Becerra said at a news conference. When asked if that meant an arrest or lawsuit against the sheriff, Becerra responded, “I think I just answered that.”
Orange County Sheriff, Sandra Hutchens appeared on Fox News.
Protests raged outside the board meeting, and inside passions were also heightened. A giant Trump campaign sign and “Make America Great Again” hats were prominent in the audience, drawing jeers from immigrant rights activists.
Supervisor Shawn Nelson bristled at some of the criticism from immigrant rights activists, declaring, “I am not a racist.”
He said the vote Tuesday was largely symbolic and does not directly undercut the state law. That fight will play out in the courts, he said, though he added that the outcome should be clear.
“Our duty always has to be first and foremost to the citizens,” he said.
While resistance to President Trump’s immigration policies has spanned the country, California has been the most aggressive. It enacted three laws last year to try to thwart enforcement.
One of the laws orders businesses not to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. Another tasks California investigators with probing the detention conditions of immigrants held by ICE in the state.
SB54, meanwhile, prohibits local police and sheriff’s department authorities from asking people they encounter about immigration status, and bans them from communicating or cooperating with federal agents on immigration matters.
The laws have sparked a backlash.
Los Alamitos, a small city in Orange County, voted last week to exempt itself from SB54. Other cities are pondering moves to add their support to the Trump administration’s lawsuit against California.
Already, SB54 the law has led to hiccups. In the lawsuit against SB54, the chief of the Border Patrol’s San Diego sector said agents were forced to release a drunken driver onto the streets because local police wouldn’t respond to their call.
Cooperation with task forces on illegal drugs and smuggling has also been imperiled, the feds said.
Those hurdles are some of the reasons the state’s sheriffs’ association is opposed to SB54.
Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens, though, is the first to attempt to circumvent it.
As of this week, the sheriff’s department lists everyone who is either in custody or has been released in the previous 30 days. On Tuesday, the list ran to more than 10,000 names.
Orange County was the seed for Proposition 187, the 1990s-era move to restrict use of public services by illegal immigrants in California. It was blocked in the courts and became a rallying cry for immigrant rights activists.
Pablo Alvarado, executive director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, which led protests Tuesday against Orange County, said the resistance to SB54 harked back to those days.
“The Board of Supervisors of Orange County doesn’t want to comply with SB54. They think it’s 1994 when infamous Pete Wilson was governor,” he tweeted. “SB54 is the law.”
Mr. Trump also notched another victory in Florida, where West Palm Beach agreed Tuesday to allow its police to communicate with federal authorities on immigration, settling a dispute about whether it was a sanctuary city.
The city’s attorney wrote a memo to all employees assuring them that they can share anything they have with Homeland Security, “including information regarding citizenship and immigration status.”
After the memo was sent, the Justice Department said it was satisfied that West Palm Beach was in compliance with federal laws.
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