Small California City Bucks the State's Sanctuary Trend

By Dan Cadman on March 21, 2018

The enclave of Los Alamitos within Orange County is bucking California's pseudo-secession "states' rights" fever on the matter of sanctuary for illegal aliens.

On March 19, the city council voted to opt out of the provisions of the California Values Act (SB 54), which on its face prohibits all state, county, and city law enforcement and other departments from cooperating with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. The act turns all of California into a sanctuary state, to the public safety detriment of its citizenry.

The state law is particularly obstructionist toward federal efforts to identify, locate, and apprehend criminal aliens; enforcement agencies are prohibited from notifying ICE of aliens arrested for criminal violations or honoring ICE detainers except in the most limited of circumstances. The result, of course, is that most aliens are released from the custody of California's state and local police and sheriff's departments back to the streets where they often re-offend, setting up a classic turnstile justice system that is in no one's interests. Such releases also affect other, non-sanctuary jurisdictions outside California since there is nothing stopping criminal aliens from drifting elsewhere to once again get involved in shady activities.

California enacted this law on the theory that it was free to pursue a policy of its own that need not hew to the notion of federal supremacy on the matter of immigration, even though such supremacy is well settled by the Constitution, the law, and innumerable Supreme Court cases.

Now, ironically, Los Alamitos has declared its own right to pursue a policy different from that of California, in no small measure because city officials believe that the state's sanctuary policies are both wrong-headed and unconstitutional.

California's reaction? It has threatened to sue in state court to enjoin Los Alamitos from "violating" the California Values Act — just as, in its turn, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has now initiated a federal lawsuit to seek injunction of several of California's sanctuary statutes. ICE has intensified its law enforcement activities throughout the state to make the point that it can and will do so at the times and places of its choosing. Ironies within ironies within ironies.

I suspect, though, that being a small city, the coffers of Los Alamitos are not unlimited in terms of defending itself against lengthy and expensive litigation by the state, which, despite its own massive debt, will probably go to great lengths to fiscally grind the city down and force compliance.

What can the federal government do to support this small insurrection in the heart of a giant sanctuary state?

First, DOJ and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS, of which ICE is a subordinate component) should wade into the fray with amicus briefs in support of Los Alamitos' legal position, should the state make good on its threat, as it almost certainly will.

Second, DOJ and DHS should explore lawful means to provide legal assistance to the city in defending itself, perhaps through secondment of federal litigation attorneys if that's possible.

Third, and perhaps most important, the Trump administration's DOJ should take a lesson from the playbook of the Obama Justice Department, which took millions of dollars that it collected in fines from lawsuits filed against Wall Street firms and other corporate giants, and funneled the money to various "progressive" organizations, including the National Council of La Raza, the National Urban League, and Asian-Americans for Equality.

Unsurprisingly, Attorney General Sessions has ordered a halt to the practice, which was obviously tilted left under the Obama administration. Perhaps it's time to selectively re-think that policy, because sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander, and providing a small urban enclave the funds it needs to buck California's sanctuary trend is surely a worthwhile endeavor.

Topics: California