The Orange County Board of Supervisors voted on Tuesday, March 27 to join a Trump administration lawsuit against California’s controversial sanctuary law.
The board’s vote may mark the biggest maneuver yet in a nascent local movement against California’s law to protect people residing illegally in the country. The board announced its unanimous decision after discussing the matter during a closed session Tuesday.
Orange County, they said, plans to join a lawsuit filed earlier this month by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions that alleges three of California’s laws are unconstitutional.
The supervisors’ vote follows a move by the Los Alamitos City Council last week to adopt an ordinance that would exempt the small northern Orange County city from SB-54, a California law that limits cooperation between local and state agencies.
Yorba Linda’s council, meanwhile, agreed last week to file an amicus brief to the federal lawsuit, and several other cities are considering taking some kind of action to voice opposition to California measures that protect residents living in the country illegally.
Supervisor Shawn Nelson, who proposed joining the federal lawsuit, on Tuesday told a contentious crowd that cheered and booed throughout the hearing that the goal is “not to go rogue” but to offer perspective on how state laws are affecting citizens of Orange County.
“Our duty always has to be first and foremost to the citizens,” Nelson said.
Nelson proposed the action after Supervisor Michelle Steel introduced a resolution to condemn SB-54, dubbed the California Values Act, which took effect in January.
“We cannot let the state begin cherry-picking which federal laws it decides to follow. As supervisors of this county, we all took oaths to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States and bear true faith and allegiance to it against all enemies,” Steel said in a statement after the vote.
Supervisors initially voted 3-0 during closed session on Nelson’s request but Supervisor Todd Spitzer later added his support to make it 4-0. Supervisor Andrew Do was absent. The board then voted unanimously on the resolution.
More than 60 speakers spoke for and against the anti-sanctuary move, an issue that was dwarfed Tuesday by the county’s proposed handling of the homeless. As many as 2,000 residents, most from Irvine, Laguna Niguel and Huntington Beach, protested a plan to move to their cities homeless people who previously lived in a tent city by the Santa Ana River. Others arrived to argue compassion and demand a permanent solution. The board voted to rescind their homeless plan.
The immigration showdown attracted a much smaller number, but still, tempers sometimes flared and passions were high.
“We condemn this hateful and violent action against all our immigrant communities. These actions seek to create fear and anxiety and only serve one purpose, to fulfill your political agenda and ambitions,” said Carlos Perea, a spokesman for Resilience OC, which advocates for immigrant rights.
“You are scapegoating our communities and this is shameful,” Perea told the board members.
Many of those gathered for the board meeting praised the elected leaders and urged them to proceed against California’s laws.
Those laws include SB-54, which limits cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities. The California Legislature passed that law in reaction to the Trump administration’s stance on immigration. The other laws in question are: the Workplace Raid law, or AB-450, which forbids employers from cooperating with federal immigration officials and can fine them if they fail to comply; and the Detention Review law, or AB-103, which allows state officials to inspect federal facilities in California that house people on immigration detentions.
Betty Robinson, a Tustin resident and long-time opponent of illegal immigration, thanked the board and recalled the death of Kate Steinle in San Francisco. The 32-year-old woman died when an accidental shot ricocheted off concrete while she was walking in the Embarcadero district. The case often has been cited because the man responsible for her death had been deported five times and had seven felony convictions.
Comparing the incident to an oft-used refrain by immigrant rights advocates who complain that deportations separate immigrant families, Robinson told the board: “Kate’s family is forever separated from her.”
Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, chastised Orange County leaders in a statement Tuesday: “This kind of obsessive immigrant bashing is embarrassing to the county and its residents, and seems designed to court the approval of a racist President and his cronies.”
De León recalled that Orange County was at the forefront of a move more than two decades ago to restrict benefits to those living here illegally through a state ballot measure, Prop. 187. California voters passed Prop. 187 but it ultimately did not survive court challenges.
“The county that gave us Prop 187 more than two decades ago is at it again with another unconstitutional attack on our immigrant communities. I am confident the courts will reject this challenge to SB-54, just as they roundly rejected Prop 187,” De León said.