California’s Orange County considers fighting state’s ‘sanctuary’ law
SANTA ANA, Calif. — Leaders of Orange County, California, planned Tuesday to consider fighting a state law aimed at protecting immigrants from stepped-up deportations under the Trump administration.
The backlash to the state’s so-called sanctuary law comes a week after the small city of Los Alamitos in Orange County voted to opt out of the policy.
The all-Republican supervisors of the Southern California county of 3.2 million people were expected to discuss passing a resolution in support of Los Alamitos and whether to join the U.S. government’s lawsuit over the law, which bars police in many cases from turning over suspects to federal immigration agents for deportation.
“This legislation prevents law enforcement from removing criminals from our community and is a threat to public safety,” said Supervisor Shawn Nelson, who has proposed joining the lawsuit by President Donald Trump’s administration or filing a new one.
On Monday, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department started publishing the release dates of inmates online in an effort to improve communication with federal immigration agents that officials say was hampered by the law.
The department used to screen inmates in the county’s jails to help Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents identify those who were subject to deportation. The department had to stop when the state law was passed.
Orange County, which is home to Disneyland and wealthy beach communities where many people vacation, has a five-member board of supervisors, and all are Republican.
While Republicans still outnumber Democrats in the county, Democrats have gained significant ground in recent years, and Hillary Clinton won more votes than Trump in Orange County in the 2016 presidential election.
California, a liberal state that is home to more than 10 million immigrants, passed its sanctuary law last year to limit local police collaboration with U.S. immigration authorities.
Supporters argue that the measure would encourage immigrants to report crime without fearing deportation, while critics say local police should provide more assistance to federal authorities.
Officials in Los Alamitos, a community of about 12,000 people 20 miles (32 kilometers) southeast of downtown Los Angeles, raised constitutional concerns about the law and sent letters to other cities seeking their support.
Legal experts and immigrant advocates have said cities can’t simply opt out of state law and will face lawsuits if they try.
Sameer Ahmed, a staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, said some cities appear to be discussing largely political resolutions, not local laws like Los Alamitos. But the idea that Orange County would consider taking such a stand is concerning to immigrant advocates, he said.
“We definitely think it is wrong, and offensive as well, that these cities and the county are saying they would rather further the anti-immigrant agenda of the Trump administration than protect the rights of their own immigrant residents,” he said.