What started late last month with a city council vote in the Southern California suburb of Los Alamitos has grown into a wave of dissent across Orange County that is sparking a new kind of resistance in the Trump era: Californians in revolt against their own state — not the Trump administration.
At least 14 Southern California cities and two counties have passed ordinances, and in some cases filed lawsuits, against the state’s controversial sanctuary laws that largely prohibit local and state authorities from cooperating with federal immigration officers.
“There is a Revolution going on in California,” President Trump tweeted last week, as part of almost a solid week of taunting Gov. Jerry Brown over his plans to restrict the state’s National Guard troops from enforcing federal immigration law at the border.
“Soooo many Sanctuary areas want OUT of this ridiculous, crime infested & breeding concept. Jerry Brown is trying to back out of the National Guard at the Border, but the people of the State are not happy. Want Security & Safety NOW!”
In the solid blue Bay Area, where Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf gained notoriety in February by warning the community of impending immigration raids, there are no signs of the growing resistance against the state’s highly-publicized fight against the Trump administration and its hardline immigration policies.
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, the frontrunner in the race for governor, shot back on Twitter: “There is a Revolution going on in California. Soooo many cities want OUT of Trump’s ridiculous & xenophobic policies.”
But in Orange County, the city of Los Alamitos took the first step last month to fire back at the sanctuary policy, shattering the Golden State’s reputation as anti-Trump territory.
Los Alamitos Mayor Troy Edgar argued that his city was simply abiding by federal law.
“As a U.S. Navy veteran and a council member for 12 years, I feel very strongly that this is constitutionally wrong,” he said of the state’s sanctuary law, which took effect at the start of the year, and spreading sanctuary policies in effect for years in places like the Bay Area and Los Angeles. “I don’t think this is an immigration issue. But I take issue with the state stepping in the middle.”
Edgar said he wants to be clear that local law enforcement should cooperate with federal immigration officials to turn over undocumented immigrant criminals before they are released from jail.
“We just don’t want these people being released into the community,” he said.
After Los Alamitos took action, Edgar said he started receiving calls from other cities that wanted to follow suit. Eleven Orange County cities, including Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, San Juan Capistrano and Yorba Linda, have made — or are considering — similar moves, passing resolutions, ordinances or joining lawsuits challenging the policy. So has the Orange County and San Diego County boards of supervisors, and the San Joaquin County town of Ripon, Riverside County town of Beaumont and San Diego County city of Escondido.
While the anti-sanctuary wave is rolling across some of California’s most Republican strongholds, they aren’t an aftershock from the 2016 election: Democrat Hillary Clinton trounced Trump in Orange County by 8 percentage points and San Diego County by 20 percentage points.
“This issue is really bringing up a complicated set of legal arguments with no clear answers at this point,” said Garrick Percival, a political science professor at San Jose State. “It illustrates that liberal California has a lot of diversity in its ideologies.”
Senate Bill 54 limits communication between California police officers and federal immigration agents about people detained by police or in jail awaiting trial. Exceptions include those who have been convicted of serious crimes within the past 15 years and suspects in serious crimes punishable with prison time for which a judge has found probable cause. It also prohibits California officers from inquiring about a person’s immigration status.
SB 54’s author Sen. Kevin de León on Friday said he’s sad to see mayors and council members “promoting these wasteful taxpayer proposals that only seek to divide our community.”
“These proposals won’t make our communities any safer, bring back jobs or grow our economy,” he said. “They are a symbolic waste of time and clearly a waste of taxpayer dollars.”
Cities cannot choose which laws they wish to follow and exempt themselves from the laws they disagree with, de León added.
Percival said the growing dispute “very likely” will be headed for a showdown at the state or U.S. Supreme Court.
“Although this is local politics in action, it’s most likely going to require a state or national solution,” he said. “It’s both symbolic and legal. We have real disputes here where the question is, how much discretion do cities have to abide by state law, but also federal law.”
While Trump’s tweet was on point about a revolution against sanctuary policies in parts of California, researchers have repeatedly debunked his contention that sanctuary jurisdictions are breeding grounds for crime.
“From a casual scientific standpoint, that claim is extremely dubious,” said Loren Collingwood, a political scientist at UC Riverside. “But science and politics are two different worlds.”
Collingwood and other researchers tested this argument in 2016 by comparing crime rates in cities across the U.S. in the year before they were named sanctuary jurisdictions and comparing those numbers with the cities’ crime rates in the year after they formally became sanctuaries. They also compared the annual crime rates of sanctuary cities with those of non-sanctuaries with similar demographics and found there was no correlation between crime and sanctuary policies.
“Our findings provide evidence that sanctuary policies have no effect on crime rates, despite narratives to the contrary,” the report said. “The potential benefits of sanctuary cities, such as better incorporation of the undocumented community and cooperation with police, thus have little cost for the cities in question in terms of crime.”
And so Collingwood said Trump’s late night tweets blaming sanctuary cities for breeding crime is simply a way to fire up his supporters.
“It was a winning political strategy for him,” he said. “They have a nice anecdotal, emotional aspect that’s appealing to a lot of people.”
Added Collingwood: “This issue is almost surely going to increase in intensity leading up to the midterms and again for the 2020 election.”
A rebellion is quickly growing among several California cities that oppose the state’s sanctuary policies. Here are the cities and counties that have (or are considering) opposing the state’s sanctuary law with city ordinances and, in some cases, lawsuits.
Orange County Board of Supervisors
San Diego County Board of Supervisors
Beaumont — Riverside County
Dana Point — Orange County
Ripon — San Joaquin County
Los Alamitos — Orange County
Laguna Niguel — Orange County
San Juan Capistrano — Orange County
Aliso Viejo — Orange County
Mission Viejo — Orange County
Yorba Linda — Orange County
Newport Beach — Orange County
Westminster — Orange County
Huntington Beach — Orange County
Orange — Orange, County
Fountain Valley — Orange County
Escondido — San Diego County
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