Late on Monday evening, the City of Los Alamitos passed a resolution (4-1) declaring themselves exempt from SB 54, the California Values Act, after almost 5 hours of public testimony. SB 54 allows local police to contact ICE prior to the release of a felon or violent criminal but does not require them to do so. Law Enforcement agencies cannot be mandated to do federal immigration work at city expense and in the process erode public trust in their police. The lone dissenting vote against the Los Alamitos resolution came from the council’s only attorney who warned defending the resolution would bankrupt the city.
The city could have taken a more symbolic vote by supporting the federal lawsuit against SB 54, a suit initiated by Attorney General, Jeff Sessions on behalf of President Trump, but this was more than symbolism at play here. Los Alamitos has not had an immigration raid in at least over a decade, if ever, thus they never would have been impacted by provisions in SB-54 which begs the question of why bring up this resolution at all? The answer lies in Mayor Edgar’s comments that he had a conversation with ICE officials welcoming them to the city. Come again? Yes, in response to state law SB 54 that limits police and ICE cooperation the Mayor of Los Alamitos not only promotes and passes a resolution to exempt themselves from the law but is going out of his way to court ICE into his community. So are we saying that the second smallest city in Orange County with a population of 12,000 suddenly discovered it has an immigration problem that it needs ICE to open an office there? No. Laughably, no. The real issue is that these kinds of resolutions are very popular with the Trump base, the largest influencer within the Republican Party. Several other Orange County cities have passed similar “anti-sanctuary state” resolutions, others supporting Sessions’ law suit, and as defeat is certain for these municipalities the motivation for these fool’s errands is simply politics at play by California Republicans.
The Republican Party turned to racism and nativism as a winning “Southern” Strategy under Richard Nixon. Trump is just the end result of decades of Republican pandering to fear. Fear of blacks, fear of Mexicans, fear of Muslims, fear of Jews. One only had to hear the chants of the anti-immigrant crowd outside the city hall to suss these things out. Orange County is pinning it’s Republican political future on playing to the worst attribute in the Trump base. Not talking about rebuilding a middle class, higher wages, returning jobs from overseas, rather, talking about getting rid of “those” people. Is this the winning Trump was talking about? One would think these municipalities consulted with their city attorneys to see the history of local agencies attempting to do the work of federal immigration officials. These laws are always stuck down. The Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly that immigration is a matter reserved exclusively for the federal government. One would also think that local elected officials would see how many Republican seats have been lost across the nation in the past year when running on a Trump nativist platform. And one would think that California Republicans would still remember the last time in the 90’s they attempted to pass anti-immigrant law prop. 187. Yes, it passed the popular vote overwhelmingly, was ruled unconstitutional, and has prevented Republicans from attaining statewide office since. Prop. 187 mobilized the Latino vote in California and has not retreated since. These current anti-immigrant resolutions will have the same effect among a broader more diverse California population, to keep Republicans irrelevant at the state level.
As so many speakers pointed out during public commentary, the resolution isn’t about the law. How could it be? The only lawyer on the council saw the folly of the resolution and voted it down. No, It was about how you see the community. About how you see the future. But the law, humanity, and history are all against these Republican city officials who view these fights as a toehold to higher office. They are trading being on the right side of a ballot for being on the right side of history. In this case they will lose both.
UPDATE: Wednesday, April 18, 2018 – The City of Los Alamitos was sued over their “anti-sanctuary state” resolution by resident group Los Alamitos Community United and a local pastor and an attorney.