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President Trump is set to meet California leaders fighting state sanctuary laws that protect undocumented immigrants

  • President Trump is set to meet with local leaders from California fighting the state's so-called sanctuary laws on Wednesday.
  • One of the state's sanctuary policies limits local and state law enforcement cooperation with immigration authorities.
  • At least 35 local jurisdictions have come out against California's sanctuary legislation, which went into effect in January.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), officers arrest an undocumented Mexican immigrant during a raid in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn on April 11, 2018 in New York City.
Getty Images
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), officers arrest an undocumented Mexican immigrant during a raid in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn on April 11, 2018 in New York City.

President Donald Trump is set to meet with a group of local elected officials from California at the White House on Wednesday to discuss the backlash against the state's so-called sanctuary laws, which aim to protect undocumented immigrants.

Several counties in the state — including San Diego, Orange and Tuolumne — as well as more than two dozen cities oppose the controversial law, two of which went into effect in January. Some of the same local jurisdictions in California also have filed briefs in support of the Trump administration's lawsuit against the state.

"We really appreciative of the mutual interest on this important issue," said Troy Edgar, mayor of Los Alamitos, a city in Orange County and one of the first local jurisdictions in the state to introduce a measure to opt out of the California's sanctuary law.

Edgar confirmed he was invited to the White House along with a group other local elected officials and said it was an "incredible opportunity" and one that he believed would continue to pushback against the state's sanctuary law. He said at least 35 local jurisdictions already have come on board the anti-sanctuary law movement.

About a dozen local elected officials were invited to the White House on Wednesday, including Warren Kusumoto, mayor pro tem of Los Alamitos, along with Orange County County Supervisor Michelle Steel. Kusumoto declined comment.

"I am very honored to be invited by President Trump to join him and other leaders from around California at the White House to discuss these 'sanctuary' laws," Steel said in a statement. "This is an amazing opportunity and I look forward to our discussion on this important public safety issue."

Several local officials from San Diego County also were invited, including Escondido Mayor Sam Abed.

In a Facebook post Friday, Abed said he was "honored to be invited to the White House to meet President Trump" as well as the U.S. attorney general and secretary of the Department of Homeland Security "to discuss Sanctuary State & Immigration. Proud to share Escondido's successful policies to keep our community safe under the Rule of Law."

During Monday's White House press briefing, deputy press secretary Raj Shah was asked about the planned meeting with California local officials.

"Well, I can't obviously get ahead of the meeting. But look, the Department of Justice is engaged in certain litigation regarding sanctuary cities in California," he said.

Shah added: "We believe that California should help us, and all municipalities and states should help the federal government in enforcing federal law, in helping to deport — when appropriate — criminal, illegal immigrants, and help, I guess, stem the tide of illegal immigration in the United States. It's actually on the rise now. It's a point of frustration for the president and for the administration. So that will be part of, obviously, what's discussed."

The lawsuit and opt-outs

The Trump administration's lawsuit against California, filed March 6, contends that three different state laws passed last year to protect undocumented immigrants against deportation violate the U.S. Constitution.

One of the sanctuary laws is state Senate Bill 54, or the California Values Act, barring local authorities from asking about the immigration status of people during routine interactions or participating in most federal immigration enforcement actions.

"Sacramento has consistently been impacting things like local control and passing laws on issues that involve federal jurisdiction such as immigration," said Edgar, the Los Alamitos mayor. "SB 54 forces cities, especially charter cities such as Los Alamitos, to decide between whether to follow the U.S. Constitution or follow the state law."

The Los Alamitos opt-out measure on the sanctuary law was introduced first in March and a month later resulted in a lawsuit filed by American Civil Liberties Union. Edgar said he hopes to talk about the case when in Washington. The small city of about 12,000 people raised more than $22,000 through a GoFundMe campaign to help cover some of its legal costs, but it still has a $100,000 goal.

Some opponents of SB 54 said it jeopardizes the safety of the public because it made it tougher to get incarcerated immigrants once they are released from jails to the custody of federal immigration agents. They say it can result in violent criminals getting released back into communities.

Opposition grows

The city of Ridgecrest, located in Kern County, is scheduled to hold a meeting Wednesday evening where it will consider action against the sanctuary state law. Similarly, the city of Corona in Riverside County is scheduled Wednesday evening to consider a possible adoption of a resolution opposing SB 54.

Last week, Santa Clarita — a city in north Los Angeles County — unanimously passed a measure 5 to 0 opposing the sanctuary law. At least two other cities in the county, Glendora and San Dimas, have considered similar actions too.

"If you hold that all politics are local, then the issue here is really how this stance by the state impedes the federal government from being able to do its job," said Ryan Vienna, a San Dimas City Council member. He tried unsuccessfully in April to win support in council recently for a measure opposing the sanctuary law.

"Congress has the exclusive right to conduct immigration policies," Vienna said. "It's not surprising the White House will be discussing this because cities and communities have been placed at odds with the federal government by the state's actions."

Another sanctuary law being challenged by the Trump administration is Assembly Bill 450, which limits the ability of employers to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. There's also Assembly Bill 103, which imposes limits on local jurisdictions establishing, modifying or renewing contracts involving locked detention facilities used to house or detain non-citizens for purposes of civil immigration custody.