Fresh week on the blog. Comedienne Michelle Wolfe's monologue at the annual White House Correspondents Association dinner was routinely panned as vulgar by both members of the Trump administration and, surprisingly, members of the WHCA. This prompted the outgoing head of the WHCA Margaret Tavlan to issue a statement calling for decorum. Really? Decorum? Michelle Wolfe used her time at the podium to point out the flaccid state of journalism. Naturally, the president tweeted his opinion, calling her "filthy." Really? He is one to speak about propriety. Speaking of the president, apparently South Korean President Soon Jae-in believes that Mr. Donald Trump should receive a Nobel Peace Prize for getting his country and North Korea to formally end the Korean War. Blogger checked the calendar, today is April 30 not April 1st. Honestly, Blogger's instinct says both Mr. Soon and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un think that the United States is not a reliable ally in the region anymore and want to negotiate peace without the Americans. Foreign policy in the Trump-era, great. Alright, on to today's subject.
In mid-March, the U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced he was suing the state of California over its decision to promulgate "sanctuary state" laws, including California State Senate Bill (SB 54) which legalizes and standardizes statewide non-cooperation between law enforcement agencies and federal immigration authorities (fairus.org: date accessed Apr. 30, 2018). However, not every municipality in California is on board with this bill. The backlash to proposed state sanctuary laws has emerged at the grassroots levels.
Sarah Holder reports in her CityLab article "As California Protects Immigrants, Cities Revolt," "After. California moved to prevent state and local law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration officials in October, Governor Jerry Brown and Attorney General Xavier Bacerra were met with swift retaliation from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who sued them and the state alleging that three of the state's new laws (citylab.com; Jan. 19, 2018; date accessed Apr. 30, 2018)...overstepped their rights as a state and violated the US Constitution's Supremacy Clause." Ms. Holder notes that this is the same argument the DOJ made in another suit filed against the state (buzzfeed.com; date accessed Apr. 30, 2018) over the sale of federal land. While the Golden State awaits its day in court, resistance is forming from within.
In March, the city of Los Alamitos was the first to announce their support for federal laws (latimes.com; Mar. 19, 2018; date accessed Apr. 30, 2018), going so far as to draft an ordinance that would allow them to opt-out of state sanctuary laws. Feeling empowered, other cities in Orange and San Diego counties are working on their own exemption laws. These cities are the conservative mirror of liberal sanctuary cities (cis.org; July 27, 2017; date accessed Apr. 30, 2018) such as West Palm Beach, Florida and Dallas County, Texas, that are pushing back against their state's strict immigration enforcement.
Los Alamitos mayor Troy Edgar explained the logic behind his city's vote:
The way sanctuary laws ass is that they conflict with the U.S. Constitution, specially with our oaths of office to uphold and support the constitution,...
The Los Alamitos ordinance "exempts the city's from California's SB 54, and in March, the Los Alamitos city council voted for it 4-1." However, Gov. Brown insists that,
This bill does not prevent or prohibit Immigration and Customs Enfocement or the Deartment of Homeland Security from their own work in any way,
it simply limits the level of cooperation that state is required to provide--"especially in deporting immigrants who face no criminal charges."
Los Alamitos is a "...71 percent white, suburban Southern California city,..." which skews slightly more conservatively (latimes.com; Mar. 19, 2018; date accessed Apr. 30, 2018) than others in this bluest of blue states: "44 percent of voters there votes for Trump in 2016, while 46 percent backed Clinton. Mayor Edgar told CityLab,
Half of our city is a U.S. military base, and we have a lot of folks who are either retired veterans or are currently serving that are amongst us,.... Our resident are constantly complaining about the overreach of the state.
Sarah Holder notes, "Of course, not all of Los Alamitos' residents are for the legislation: at the city council meeting where Edgar raised the ordinance, a long-time resident told the LA Times (Ibid) it was a politically charged move which does not reflect all the Los Alamitos resident."
Los Alamitos is a California Charter City (cacities.org; date accessed Apr. 30, 2018) which means that it can pass local ordinances that clarify state laws and giving it more power to exempt itself from state polices that it's residents oppose. Ms. Holder adds, "not all small cities can move as aggressively, but in the days after Edgar announced his legislation, he says he's fielded calls from interested Artie's across the Golden State." The coastal city of Huntington Beach also has charter power (Ibid). Buenaventura Park, Upland, Fullerton, and Costa Mesa will be bringing similar ordinances to the floor in future city council meetings, according to their representatives.
Aliso Viejo Mayor David Harrington acknowledges that without the the charter city designation, his municipality cannot completely exempt itself--instead, he is writing a more symbolic motion,
It's kind of an affirmation of our design to uphold the U.S. Constitution first and then the California state law,...
On April 4th Aliso Viejo voted to join the federal challenge to state sanctuary laws (nbclosangeles.com; Apr. 5, 2018; date accessed Apr. 30, 2018).
The majority of the municipalities opposing the state sanctuary laws are found within Orange County (ocregister.com; Aug. 25, 2014, date accessed Apr. 30, 2018), making opposition almost unilateral. Orange County Supervisor MIchelle Steel announced a regional opt-out ordinance (Ibid; Mar. 20, 2018) at the end of March, prompting a rare show of Twitter love from the president. The Sheriff's department has begun posting the release dates for detained immigrants (foxnews.com; Mar. 28, 2018; date accessed Apr. 30, 2018), allowing ICE to easily sweep them up. OC County Supervisor member Shaw Nelson told CBS,
We are tired of the state trying to use these arguments to prevent us from keeping the citizens safe (thehill.com; Apr 1, 2018 date accessed Apr. 30, 2018).
Orange County has joined A.G. Jeff Session's lawsuit--whose foundation is the unconstitutionality of of SB 54, Assembly Bill 450 ("Workplace Raid" law), and AB 103 ("Detention Review" law)--by filing an amicus brief to the federal case, a move that Aliso Viejo and Los Alamitos are making as well. Further south, in San Diego County, the unilaterally Republican board of supervisors voted on April 17 to join the federal suit and about citizenship status on the 2020 census (CNBC.com; Apr. 17, 2018; date accessed Apr. 30, 2018).
Mayor Troy Edgar told CityLab, We just thought [we'd try] a kind of belt-and-suspenders strategy. However, if the state of California did decide to sue, Sarah Holder points out, "an amicus briefs, once joined to a federal lawsuit, can't be erased." Mayor Edgar continued,
That allows us to provide a perspective on what we think will be a constitutional issue that will go to the Supreme Court,.... We wanted to make sure that there was a message that local cities within the state of California don't agree with the direction that the state is going on this.
Ironically, Mayor Edgar was inspired by the actions of Oakland, California Mayor Libby Schaaf, who in February informed her constituents of pending ICE raids (nytimes.com; Mar. 1, 2018; date accessed Apr. 30, 2018) in the Bay Area. Mayor Schaaf believed it was her duty and moral obligation as mayor to give those families fair warning when that threat appears imminent (Ibid; Feb. 28, 2018).
While Mayor Edgar's approach to immigration is more aggressive--"he said he would have willingly cooperated with ICE"--he does place himself within the overall pattern of mayors regaining control of their city. He commented on Mayor Schaaf's actions,
Folks thought what she did was pretty inappropriate.... I think that definitely had an impact on people's impressions of, wow, a mayor actually makes a difference in this process.
Opt-out ordinances are not the only way cities have been able to bypass state control over immigration enforcement. A year ago March, CityLab reported (citylab.com; Mar. 1, 2017; date accessed Apr. 30., 2018) "that newly released Department of Homeland Security immigration enforcement memos contained an intent to resurrect the 'task force model' of 287 (g), a provision of 1996 immigration law that allows local jurisdictions to take a more active role in immigration enforcement." Thus far, sixty municipalities in 20 states are right now cooperating--nearly doubled in 2017 (Ibid; Aug. 22, 2017)--but none in California, yet.
University of Buffalo professor of local government and immigration law Rick Su told CityLab "It's not clear whether the state of California will push back against this wave of local revolts immediately, or ever." That will depend on the make up of the state legislature and who occupies the governor's mansion in November and whether they want to deal with a two-front attack (federal and local). Prof. Su told CityLab,
The only question is whether or not the state is going to fight them directly by filing lawsuits against these localities or whether or not they're going to put their efforts into fighting the lawsuit against the DOJ exclusively.
Blogger would like to suggest working with municipalities who push back on state sanctuary laws.
Prof. Su added "Politically, it might be smart for California to come out guns blazing,..., but legally it could prove more effective to focus on soundly winning the DOJ lawsuit, rendering many of the city fights moot. Good strategy. He explained,
If they win then they use that to essentially that these claims don't make any sense, and there's nothing there,...Because [if it's not ruled] unconstitutional, they would still have an obligation to follow state law.