By Alexandra Mendoza
San Diego County could join in the federal government’s lawsuit against California’s ‘Sanctuary State’ laws, much to the displeasure of local advocacy organizations.
The American Civil Liberties Union has asked Board of Supervisors Chair Kristin Gaspar to remove the proposal, which they have called “an attack” on immigrant communities, from next week’s agenda.
“There is no need for them to vote in support of Trump’s lawsuit against the State of California,” said Norma Chávez-Peterson, executive director of the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties.
The Board of Supervisors, currently made up of five Republican members, will be discussing whether to follow cities such as Escondido in joining the opposition against the recently-enacted SB-54 law limiting collaboration between local law enforcement and immigration agencies.
The U.S. Department of Justice, under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, sued California a few weeks ago challenging three laws that shield undocumented immigrants.
Human rights advocates have expressed indignation at the fact that the County has not only included the issue on their agenda but will also be considering it behind closed doors.
“We are very disappointed with their wanting to do it this way,” Southwestern College Board of Directors member Nora Vargas said. “If there is one thing that shows that what they’re doing is not right, it’s that they’re doing it behind closed doors. If it weren’t a bad thing, they would be doing it in public and listening to the community.”
According to Vargas, the County would be sending the wrong message, as it “would not reflect the values or the principles” of San Diego communities.
After the mobilization by local activists, Board of Supervisors Chair Kristin Gaspar insisted that the debate centers on public safety.
“I have been vocal in my support of upholding the law and protecting the 3.5 million people who call San Diego home,” she said in a statement. “This issue was already decided in 2012 when the (President) Obama-led Department of Justice and Supreme Court determined that local laws can’t override Federal law,” adding that all of their options will be up for discussion at next week’s meeting.
In an interview for Fox News, Supervisor Dianne Jacob said she was “cautiously optimistic” that the Board would vote 3-2 in favor of joining the federal government’s lawsuit.
Detractors of SB-54, including President Donald Trump, contend that these laws could lead to the release of “criminals” by not turning them over to immigration agencies.
This sounded Orwellian to advocates who feel it criminalizes immigrant communities. To them, this bill keeps undocumented immigrants from losing their trust in the police and makes them feel more at ease to report crimes.
SB-54 is also intended from keeping people who have not committed serious crimes from being deported. In the words of former California Police Chiefs’ Association David Bejarano, “California law enforcement should not be used to assist with mass immigration deportations.”
Advocates are calling on the community to contact their County Supervisors and let them know what they think about their proposal before it is voted on this coming April 17.