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California city council votes to defy state law protecting immigrants

"I’m not anti-immigrant."

THE LOS ALAMITOS CITY COUNCIL VOTED 4 TO 1 ON THE FIRST READING OF AN ORDINANCE TO DEFY CALIFORNIA STATE LAW AIMED AT PROTECTING UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS. (PHOTO: SCREENGRAB)
THE LOS ALAMITOS CITY COUNCIL VOTED 4 TO 1 ON THE FIRST READING OF AN ORDINANCE TO DEFY CALIFORNIA STATE LAW AIMED AT PROTECTING UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS. (PHOTO: SCREENGRAB)

The city council of a wealthy, small California town on Monday approved the introduction of a city ordinance to opt out of a “sanctuary” state law aimed at restricting collaboration between local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities.

The Los Alamitos City Council voted to move forward on an ordinance exempting the city from Senate Bill 54, a state immigration law that took effect on January 1, 2018 and allows local law enforcement officials to not turn over suspected undocumented immigrants in their custody to federal immigration agents. Los Alamitos will also file an amicus brief with a lawsuit from U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions against the state of California. A second reading of the proposed ordinance will take place on April 16, when the council will have to vote again.The City Council voted 4 to 1 during the first reading Monday night.

The preliminary vote — in defiance of California’s largely liberal stance against President Donald Trump’s executive orders authorizing large-scale immigration enforcement efforts to go after the undocumented population — likely makes the Orange County town the first in the state to opt out of the so-called “sanctuary” state law.

Warren Kusumoto, an electrical engineer who proposed the ordinance, admitted he wasn’t a lawyer, but claimed that SB 54 failed to comply with his reading of the U.S. Constitution. Immigration law professors told the Press Telegram that the California law was not unconstitutional and that the city could be “inviting a lawsuit if it approves the ordinance.” As the publication pointed out, other legal experts have similarly found that “states are not compelled to carry out federal enforcement and regulations.”

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“I’m not anti-immigrant. I recognize we’re a melting pot. I’m proof of that,” Kusumoto told the Press Telegram. His grandparents emigrated from Japan to Hawaii before it had become a state, the publication noted.

As multiple reporters observed, the vote drew sharp responses from both supporters of the ordinance wearing Trump hats and pro-immigrant advocates who want immigrants to stay in the country.

Reverand Samuel Pullen, who showed up to protest the vote, didn’t understand how in a wealthy town of 11,000 people where 63.65 percent of the population is Caucasian, 4 percent of the population is African American, and 12.9 percent of the population is Asian, that his city “was picking this battle,” as the local Fox News affiliate put it.

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“I don’t think there’s a large undocumented presence which begs the question: why is the council trying to make a big deal out of something that isn’t a big deal in the community,” Pullen said.

The president has long claimed “sanctuary cities” were dangerous because localities could choose to limit communications about inmates between local law enforcement authorities and the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. Trump administration officials have further asserted that sanctuary cities are ripe breeding grounds for criminal immigrants and the opioid epidemic. In truth, they’re not. Under the California Values Act, local law enforcement officials have the discretion to cooperate with immigration authorities under certain circumstances, like when inmates are convicted of serious criminal convictions.

Trump waged an immigration battle against the state of California, with administration officials recently blaming the Oakland mayor for warning residents about an impending immigration raid a few weeks ago.

Although the Los Alamitos City Council voted on a measure that would realistically have no effect on its wealthy residents, it’s rather telling how quickly these residents have forgotten the impact of immigrants on their city. Immigrants built Los Alamitos. Beyond ancestral Povuu’ngana and Mexican people in the area, successive generations of immigrants from Belgium, France, and Germany farmed and raised livestock to build up the city, according to the City of Los Alamitos’ own website.