Orange County Votes to Join Lawsuit Against State's 'Sanctuary' Law
A man is detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents early on Oct. 14, 2015, in Los Angeles, California. (John Moore/Getty Images)
Leaders in Orange County have voted to join a U.S. government lawsuit against the state over its so-called sanctuary law for immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.
By a 3-0 vote, the all-Republican Board of Supervisors decided in closed session Tuesday to take the action.
The vote comes a week after the small Orange County city of Los Alamitos voted to opt out of the state law that limits local police collaboration with federal immigration agents.
California passed the sanctuary law last year to try to protect immigrants from stepped-up deportations under the Trump administration.
"This legislation prevents law enforcement from removing criminals from our community and is a threat to public safety," said Supervisor Shawn Nelson, who proposed joining the lawsuit by President Trump's administration or filing a new one.
Outside the meeting room, several dozen immigrant advocates played music and held signs with slogans such as "Set Our People Free" and "Melt ICE" to urge supervisors not to join the U.S. lawsuit against California.
"Orange County has moved forward over the last decade, and what supervisors are doing today is moving us back to a hateful time," Salvador G. Sarmiento, legislative director for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, told reporters.
The county moved this week to improve communication with federal immigration agents by publishing the release dates of inmates online. The sheriff's department used to screen inmates in the county's jails to help Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents identify those subject to deportation, but had to stop when the state law passed.
Orange County, which is home to Disneyland and wealthy beach communities where many people vacation, has a five-member board of supervisors and all are Republican.
While Republicans still outnumber Democrats in the county, Democrats have gained significant ground in recent years, and Hillary Clinton won more votes than Trump in Orange County in the 2016 presidential election.
California is home to more than 10 million immigrants and passed its sanctuary law last year to limit local police collaboration with U.S. immigration authorities.
Supporters argue that the measure would encourage immigrants to report crime without fearing deportation, while critics say local police should provide more assistance to federal authorities.
Officials in Los Alamitos, a community of about 12,000 people 20 miles (32 kilometers) southeast of downtown Los Angeles, raised constitutional concerns about the law and sent letters to other cities seeking their support.
Legal experts and immigrant advocates have said cities can't simply opt out of state law and will face lawsuits if they try.
Sameer Ahmed, a staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, said some cities appear to be discussing largely political resolutions, not local laws like Los Alamitos. But the idea that Orange County would consider taking such a stand is concerning to immigrant advocates, he said.
"We definitely think it is wrong, and offensive as well, that these cities and the county are saying they would rather further the anti-immigrant agenda of the Trump administration than protect the rights of their own immigrant residents," he said.