San Diego County Joins California's 'Sanctuary-State' Revolt

County votes to support Trump administration's lawsuit against sanctuary-state law

sanctuary state immigration protest
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April 18, 2018

San Diego County, California's second-most populous county, on Tuesday joined at least a dozen other municipalities in supporting the Trump administration's lawsuit against the state over its so-called "sanctuary" law.

The county's all-Republican Board of Supervisors discussed the issue in a closed session Tuesday and afterward announced that it had voted in favor of supporting the Justice Department's lawsuit against the state law.

The law in question, SB54, officially titled the California Values Act, limits cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities. The vote was 3-1, with one supervisor absent.

"I think San Diegans are finally waking up and finally saying, 'Enough is enough, Gov. Brown,'" Gaspar told Fox News before the vote. "Gov. Brown needs to follow the laws of our Constitution."

Since the September 11th attacks, policymakers across all levels of government have pushed for greater communication and synthesis between federal and local law enforcement authorities, Gaspar said.

Several task forces in San Diego were set up to help facilitate local and federal cooperation to combat cross-border human trafficking and drugs and weapons smuggling.

"Unfortunately, under SB54, our local law enforcement can no longer take part," Gaspar said. "It's really quite unfortunate the impacts of SB54."

The deadline has passed to file an amicus brief supporting the federal government's lawsuit challenging SB54. Gaspar said the County has directed the county attorney to file a supportive brief at the earliest opportunity—if and when a ruling is appealed to a higher court.

The move by San Diego County is the latest in a series of revolts by municipalities against the law, which began last month when the small city of Los Alamitos, located within Orange County, made national news by launching a city ordinance to reject the sanctuary law. Orange County itself soon followed suit by voting to file an amicus brief supporting the federal lawsuit against the state.

The cities of San Juan Capistrano, Aliso Viejo, Escondido, and Mission Viejo are among those whose leaders have either passed a resolution against the law or have voted to file amicus briefs in support of the Trump administration's positions.

The sanctuary-state issue is especially heated in the border county of San Diego, home to 3.3 million people, 33.5 percent of whom consider themselves Hispanics or Latino, according to the most recent census data.

San Diego City, which is led by popular Republican Mayor Kevin Faulconer who often touts a balanced approach to immigration policy, has so far steered clear of taking a stand on the sanctuary-state law.

Supporters of the new law argue that local police cooperation with federal immigration authorities undermines trust within immigrant communities of local law enforcement. Sanctuary advocates also say the Trump administration's immigration raids have targeted some illegal immigrants over minor crimes.

California Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday defended the state law and blasted "low-life politicians" who he argued are exploiting the illegal immigration issue for political reasons.

"The Republican Party has this little narrow group of—people that think that somehow they're going to get elected" on the issue, Brown said Tuesday during remarks at the National Press Club.

Leading up to the Board of Supervisors' vote, several local officials, as well as numerous interest groups on both sides of the issue held intense rallies.

San Diego's conservative radio host Carl DeMaio in the weeks before the Board of Supervisors' Tuesday vote on the issue, used his radio platform to aggressively press the board to join the lawsuit against the state law.

"The sanctuary state law is not only unconstitutional, but it is a real threat to public safety because it forces local government to harbor and shield violent criminals," said DeMaio, a former San Diego City councilman. "It is imperative that San Diego voters contact the five members of the Board of Supervisors before the vote to urge them to sign on to the lawsuit against the sanctuary city law."

Two North San Diego County mayors—Escondido's Sam Abed and San Marcos's Jim Desmond—also called on the Board to support the Trump administration's lawsuit.

Liberal groups were equally forceful in opposing any Board action aimed at undermining the "sanctuary" law. A particularly active group, Indivisible San Diego, protested outside Horn's district on Monday, urging him to vote against any effort to back the federal lawsuit.

The same group gathered dozens of protesters outside the County Board of Supervisors' office on Tuesday to urge the board to vote no. The group shouted "love, not hate, that's what makes America great," and held signs stating, "Keep Immigrants, Deport Racists," and "California Values People."

The group's leader, Ellen Montanari, focused most of her anger on Gaspar for agreeing to hold a discussion on the sanctuary-state issue.

"You go in there and tell Kristin Gaspar to take her dirty politics back to wherever she belongs," Montanari said at the rally. "We are not going to let her step on the backs of the people who live in this county just so she can go to Washington."

The issue is politically fraught for Gaspar, the former mayor of the more politically divided North County coastal town of Encinitas.

Gaspar is running for the congressional seat left open by Rep. Darrell Issa's retirement. She has a strong GOP rival in Diane Harkey, who serves on California's Board of Equalization and previously represented the more conservative Orange County in the State Assembly. Hillary Clinton narrowly won the district

Supervisor Horn, who represents a more conservative part of the county, cast the deciding vote in favor of the lawsuit after keeping mum on the issue for several weeks.

Supervisor Dianne Jacob led the opposition to the law, arguing that it's unconstitutional and undermines public safety. She said it makes no sense to have a state law barring local and federal law enforcement officials from communicating with each other to prevent illegal immigrants who are charged or convicted of crimes from being released back into the community.

Before the vote, two supervisors had signaled their strong opposition to supporting the federal lawsuit.

Supervisor Greg Cox has said sheriff's deputies "should not be forced to carry out immigration duties."

"The problem lies not in Sacramento, but in D.C., where Congress and the administration have failed to fix a flawed immigration system," he said.

Supervisor Ron Roberts did not attend the Tuesday meeting because of a "long-planned trip."

He previously said he would have urged his colleagues "to stay out of this issue."