Editorial, Featured

County Chooses Immigration Politics over Substance

April 19, 2018

By Arturo Castañares / Publisher and CEO

This week, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors supported the Trump Administration’s lawsuit against California to overturn so-called “Sanctuary City” laws meant to restrict local police from enforcing federal immigration laws.

On a 3 to 1 vote, the all-Republican Board of Supervisors agreed to submit a legal brief in support of the federal government’s lawsuit challenging three state laws that Trump insists are unconstitutional, but most legal experts disagree.

The three state laws in question (1) limit local jails from notifying federal immigration agencies when undocumented immigrants are being released from jail; (2) require employers to give workers 72 hours notice before immigration checks; and (3) require the state to inspect federal immigration detention centers run by private contractors.

None of these laws stop federal authorities from enforcing immigration laws, nor are they more restrictive than what the Feds require.
Unlike what Arizona did in SB1070 that allowed local police to ask anyone for their immigration papers, our state’s laws were carefully crafted to protect the relationship between local police and communities, without stepping on the toes of the federales.

It’s ironic that the Trump Administration is using the same legal tactic to attack California that President Obama used to challenge Arizona. In Obama’s lawsuit, the Feds claimed Arizona was too strict in enforcing immigrations laws; Trump says California is too lax.

As always, these cases eventually go before federal judges and, in the case of Arizona, most of the law was ruled to be unconstitutional. Of course, conservatives decried the abuse of liberal activist judges that wrongfully overturned that state law.

Now it’s Trump seeking activism from federal judges to overturn laws passed by the California Legislature, but, so far, the cases aren’t going well This week, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a Trump Administration policy that sought to restrict federal grants to cities that have adopted sanctuary laws. The court ruled that the White House cannot add restrictions to the grants that were not part of the original requirements to receive the federal money.

The court’s ruling followed a similar ruling in California where a federal judge issued a permanent injunction in November 2017 stopping the White House from holding back money to cities and counties that passed sanctuary laws. Both of these cases will most likely end up before the US Supreme Court.

The aggressive approach toward immigration enforcement by the Trump Administration has been a fulfillment his campaign pledges to be tough on border issues. His caustic style has been like red meat for this political base, but has alienated large segments of moderate and liberal voters.

But now, Trump’s lawsuit is galvanizing local politicians into “with us” and “against us” cabals. More progressive and Democratic-led cities and counties have voted to oppose the lawsuit, while several others with a conservative bent, like San Diego, have piled on board with Trump.

This week, the national immigration debate spotlight was on San Diego. Before the Board of Supervisors met to decide its position in the case, two separate rallies were held to voice their respective support and opposition to the county’s proposed action.

One of the County Supervisors, Kristin Gaspar, who has only been on the Board for 15 months but is running to replace Darrell Issa in Congress, seemed to relish the fight the most. Gaspar said our communities were safer before the new laws, reiterating the false Trump narrative that immigrants equal crime.

In her political calculation, and given her conservative, North County district, she must believe that aligning herself with Trump will garner more votes than it will cost her among Latinos and moderate voters.

Gaspar embraced Trump’s tactic of using undocumented immigration hysteria for political gain instead of dealing productively with the real issues of social justice and economic empowerment. She chose political expediency and racial scapegoating instead of showing real leadership.

But one Supervisor rose above the political fray and voted against supporting the controversial lawsuit.

Supervisor Greg Cox, a former mayor of Chula Vista and a Supervisor since 1995, voted against his Republican colleagues and argued that immigration issues must be resolved in Washington, D.C., not locally. Cox knows that having local governments pile on to a lawsuit between the Feds and the State is nothing more than political theatre.

Greg Cox’s example of good government is a rare thing in today’s political environment; it’s a throwback to a time when elected officials lead their communities toward solutions, not just blamed people for the problems.

Today it just seems easier to scare voters into fearing others, but as Washington has shown in recent years, it never leads to solutions.
Today seems eerily similar to 1994 when Republicans used Proposition 187 in a ruse to blame undocumented immigrants for California’s problems, only to reel from the political backlash that led to unprecedented activism among Latino voters.

California, and especially San Diego, are eclectic communities of mixed backgrounds. Our society has been enriched by the cultural diversity of our immigrants, and our economy prospered through the hard work of people from hundreds of varied countries.

Our elected officials, and candidates for office, should honor and respect that diversity, not engage in base political fear-mongering and scapegoating.

And voters should watch, remember, and vote for and against those candidates that either support or oppose constructive solutions to the complex issues we face.

It’s our civic duty to vote, and hold our leaders accountable to the standard we expect.

Being honest, in words and in deeds, is not too much to ask from our elected leaders.

Published 5:08 p.m. on April 19, 2018

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