By Jennifer Mcentee
SAN DIEGO, Apr 17 : San Diego County leaders on Tuesday began debating whether to join the Trump administration’s court challenge to a California law limiting cooperation with federal immigration enforcement, amid a conservative backlash to the so-called sanctuary movement.
Approval by the Republican-controlled Board of Supervisors in California’s second-largest county, one that shares a border with Mexico, would follow similar action last month by Orange County, the state’s third-most-populous county, in voting to support the anti-sanctuary suit.
The city of San Diego ranks as California’s second-biggest municipality and with the adjacent Mexican city of Tijuana comprises the largest cross-border metropolitan area shared between the United States and Mexico.
Like their Orange County counterparts, all five San Diego County supervisors are Republicans. One of them was absent from Tuesday’s packed public hearing, and it was unclear whether he would take part in a closed-session vote on the proposal later in the day.
Outside, pro-sanctuary protesters peacefully picketed the meeting, carrying signs with such slogans as “Sanctuary Cities Make Us Safer,” and “We Are All Immigrants.” California moved to the forefront of political opposition to Republican President Donald Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigration with enactment last year of the first statewide law aimed at restricting local law enforcement participation in federal deportation activities.
The measure bars state and local authorities from keeping undocumented immigrants who are incarcerated locked up any longer than otherwise necessary for the purpose of allowing U.S. immigration agents to take them into custody. It also prohibits police from routinely inquiring about the immigration status of people detained in an investigation or in traffic stops.
But the law, known as SB-54, allows local police to notify the federal government if they have arrested an undocumented immigrant with a felony record and permits immigration agents access to local jails.
The Trump administration has harshly criticized California’s law and similar sanctuary ordinances adopted by local governments across the country, saying they threaten public safety by protecting criminals who ought to be deported.
Sanctuary supporters counter that enlisting police cooperation in deportation actions undermines community trust in local law enforcement, particularly among Latinos, and that Trump’s crackdown has targeted some immigrants over minor infractions.
The U.S. Justice Department sued California over its sanctuary law in February, a move Democratic Governor Jerry Brown denounced as a declaration of war on his state.
Since then, however, local politicians in a number of California’s more conservative cities and counties have pushed back against the sanctuary movement, approving resolutions in support of the Trump administration lawsuit.