The American Civil Liberties Union Wednesday sued Los Alamitos, along with its mayor, city manager and police department, over the city’s decision to opt out of complying with the so-called state sanctuary bill.
The City Council late Monday voted 4-1 vote to approve an ordinance exempting the city from the California Values Act, which restricts local law enforcement from cooperating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement on immigration cases.
“The ordinance thus authorizes local police officers and school officials, as well as other local officials, to disregard the terms of the Values Act and collaborate with immigration authorities,” according to the lawsuit. “It is black-letter law that a locality cannot enact an ordinance that conflicts with state law — let alone one that, on its face, authorizes local officials to violate state law. A local ordinance is preempted by state law, and therefore invalid, when it `duplicates, contradicts or enters an area fully occupied by general law, either expressly or by legislative implication.”’
The lawsuit also alleges that the city’s move “will have a devastating and far-reaching impact on communities in Los Alamitos and elsewhere,” and notes that state lawmakers who approved the law did so to “ensure that (immigrants) continued to report crime, seek health services, and attend schools” without fear of deportation.
Los Alamitos Mayor Troy Edgar said he could not comment directly on the lawsuit, which he had not seen, But he said he voted for the ordinance on Monday because of public safety issues.
“This is not about immigration,” he said. “This is about criminal illegal immigrants in the country and trying to keep them out of our communities.”
The mayor emphasized that his wife emigrated to the United States from Iran following the revolution.
“It took her three years to get here,” he said. “I have no issue with immigration. All I would say is this issue gets conflated on both sides by partisans. They go to extremes and I think that’s incorrect.
“My position is to represent the 80 percent in between those two extremes who want to follow the U.S. Constitution and have our law enforcement work with the federal government on immigration issues,” Edgar said. “I look at it as a national security issue. I want people who don’t belong here who have committed a crime to be removed and sent back to their country, and I want to keep my city safe.”
The mayor said Los Alamitos is a charter city and, therefore, has more latitude to enact its own ordinances separate from state law.
“As a charter city, we have the opportunity to make our own laws and ordinances and to provide clarification on state laws,” he said.
The city councils of three other Orange County municipalities on Tuesday voted to side with U.S. Attorney Jeff Sessions’ lawsuit challenging portions of the state law.
Lake Forest Mayor Jim Gardner said his council unanimously supported the filing of an amicus brief in support of Sessions’ lawsuit.
About 100 residents attended the meeting, with about half commenting on the issue. Support and opposition were largely even, with a small percentage of residents saying the city has “no dog in the fight” because it contracts with sheriff’s deputies to provide police services and does not have a jail, the mayor said.
But Gardner said council members took sides in the debate because they took an oath to support the federal constitution over any other laws.
“It wasn’t so much opposition to the (state law) as it was recognizing when the federal and state laws conflict our principal obligation is to the federal constitution,” Gardner said.
In Dana Point, the council voted 3-2 to adopt a resolution supporting Orange County’s efforts to join Sessions’ lawsuit.
Last week, Westminster joined multiple other Orange County cities in opposing the state law. Other cities voting to oppose the state law by either filing amicus briefs supporting Sessions’ lawsuit challenging provisions of the California Values Act or joining the federal government’s suit are Newport Beach, Orange, Huntington Beach, Mission Viejo, Aliso Viejo, Fountain Valley, San Juan Capistrano and Yorba Linda.
Santa Ana has sided with the state over the federal government.