Council discusses ‘sanctuary city’ status

Council discusses  ‘sanctuary city’ statusBy BRIAN COSNER

News Review Staff Writer

Following Gov. Jerry Brown’s approval of Senate Bill 54 in October 2017, California’s status as a “sanctuary state” remains questionable as cities across Southern California move to oppose the bill and support the federal lawsuit against California. The Ridgecrest City Council discussed joining the movement during last week’s meeting to mixed response from the community.

The item was on the agenda only for discussion, not for action, and the council ultimately decided to table any decisions while City Attorney Lloyd Pilchen looks further into the city’s options – the least risky of which seeming to be joining an amicus brief, expressing opposition to the bill without officially joining the lawsuit.

SB 54 aims to provide sanctuary to illegal immigrants by preventing law enforcement from detaining individuals exclusively for their citizenship status and also prevents agencies from “using money or personnel to investigate, interrogate, detain, detect or arrest persons for immigration enforcement purposes.”

Councilmember Wallace Martin presented the item. As the city’s representative on the League of California Cities, Martin reported that they the league hasn’t taken an official stance, but he listed several Southern California cities that opposed the bill.

“In my opinion, it is critical that we stand up as a city and join the many forces and many voices around the state telling the voices of extremism we have had quite enough, and its time to begin reversing the damaging effects of so many recent, extreme laws,” said Martin, who called the bill a “flagrant violation of our Constitution.”

Mayor Pro Tem Mike Mower expressed his concern with the legislation.

“It puts me between a rock and a hard spot,” he said in regard to Assembly Bill 450, a companion piece of legislature to the sanctuary city bill. “I have to make sure every employee I hire is legal. In fact I have to send confirmation to the federal government, and yet the state is telling me not to. AB 450 says the workplace raid law prohibits employers from cooperating with federal agents during workplace raids or audits.

“So I have to tell [ICE agents] they can’t come into my office because it’s a nonpublic area? Yeah, I’m going to tell a federal agent that all right,” he added with obvious sarcasm.

Vice Mayor Eddie Thomas said he was hesitant to oppose the state legislation because he sees some of the cities that did as possibly targeting certain demographics with law enforcement.

During public comment, Ron Porter seconded Martin’s sentiments that the bill went against the federal government’s sole authority over immigration as written in the Constitution.

“Just because someone believes noncitizens should not come into this country illegally, does not make them racist or a bigot, but a patriot,” said Porter. “I’m not saying this to be racist, but if Congress wanted to right a law saying only blue-eyed, blonde-haired people can come into this country, that would be it.

“It’s an invasion. Whether the invasion be armed or not is irrelevant. It’s an invasion ... I’m not racist. Race has nothing to do with it. I believe all of us are great. I wish we could actually open the doors and say, ‘We have a wonderful country and you should all come here.’ But the fact is, it would destroy our nation.”

Thomas Wiknich read a list of a dozen local jurisdictions that either joined the lawsuit or an amicus brief to oppose the bill, and said joining the amicus brief would be appropriate for our city.

Kevin LaBrie was the first member of the public to speak in opposition of Martin’s proposal

“I don’t understand ... why we need to utilize local resources and finances and manpower for something that would be under federal control,” he said. “Why are we allowing the federal government to act outside of its powers to do unwarranted searches and raids? You should have a warrant.”

Martin said the decision would be primarily symbolic in nature and would have little to no fiscal impact on the city. But Police Chief Jed McLaughlin also confirmed that impact on the police department would be negligible if the city decides to take no action.

“If this is just to demonstrate solidarity, then I disagree,” said LaBrie. “I think there are a number of people who are on the base and in uniform who aren’t citizens who would find this very demoralizing.”

There was brief argument from the public comment podium and the audience about whether or not servicemen and women could be noncitizens, but Mayor Peggy Breeden reminded the audience to yeild the floor to the speaker.

Peggy Richter took to the public podium to add that noncitizens were technically not allowed to serve in our military and agreed with Porter that those here illegally were invaders.

“I joined the military when I was not a citizen,” said Fransisco Cruz, who spoke after Richter. “I went to Iraq, not as a U.S. citizen. I didn’t get my citizenship until I got back from Iraq the second time.

“We do have people who are not here legally, that is true. Most of these people don’t want to break the laws. They came here to find better jobs and feed their families. Yes, they’re not here legally – I get that. But that doesn’t make them essentially criminal.”

Member of the public Kathleen Wiliiamson-Labrie mentioned that Wiknich’s list of supporting communities were “super rich” and “super white” and didn’t represent the majority of California.

“I’d like to know what the cities of Anaheim and Santa Ana, which vastly exceed the populations of those other communites, have to say about sanctuary-city status.”

She said federal immigration policy has changed dramatically since the 18th century and pointed out “very biased” historic policies like the Chinese Exclusion Act.

“If you’re saying our founding fathers are the reason that we should behave in a nonevolved way, I think that’s a pretty poor excuse.

“I think we can be more gracious and more accepting and remember that ‘In God We Trust.’ Jesus, Mary and Joseph were illegal immigrants to Egypt when they needed to be, and no one kicked them out.”

Others still thought the city should take more serious action and join the lawsuit against a bill they argued was unconstitutional and dangerous.

As discussion was winding down, Thomas warned against opposition to the bill saying it’s a “scary thing” when leaders say we’re a nation of laws, but apply those laws unfairly to certain demographics.

“Our president’s own wife is supposed to have come through some difficulties coming over here,” he said.

Council meets again May 16 at 6 p.m. at City Hall where this item is intended to be up for discussion again. For information see ridgecrest-ca.gov/ridgerest-city-council.

Story First Published: 2018-05-11