Los Alamitos opts out of sanctuary law

Protestors raise signs to express disaproval during a contentious Los Al City Council meeting. Photo by Ted Apodaca

After listening to more than 50 speakers during public comments, the Los Alamitos City Council voted 4-1, to preliminarily approve an ordinance to allow the city to exempt itself from enforcement of the California Sanctuary State law.

The council also approved a motion to file an amicus brief with the federal lawsuit against California, filed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Despite the wording and rhetoric, Los Alamitos Mayor Troy Edgar assured those in attendance at the meeting that the city was not wading into the immigration debate.

“We are not filing a lawsuit. We are not determining immigration policy tonight,” Edgar said.

Yet, for many of those in attendance, the proposed ordinance was about immigration, illegal versus legal. While for those opposed to the ordinance, the debate was about protecting the rights of immigrants and for those in favor it was about California’s right to determine how to best use its resources.

So many people turned out for the meeting that more than 100 people overflowed outside from 40-seat council chamber. Quickly, the discussion developed into a battle between supporters of Donald Trump and those opposed to his agenda. Before the meeting started opposing chants of “Deport racist Trump,” were met with chants of “He’s your president, Trump,” echoed outside the council chambers.

Mayor Pro Tem Warren Kusumoto, who proposed the ordinance, said that he had been considering the issue since November of 2017, when the California Values Act, was authorized to take effect on Jan. 1. Kusumoto said he sees a conflict between the California law and the U.S. Constitution.

Kusumoto said his concern was in protecting the people of Los Alamitos and businesses within the city. He also noted that with the Joint Forces Training Base in the city, the base needed guidance for the city to follow.

He reiterated that the proposed action was not a debate on immigration. “This is really the business of Los Alamitos,” Kusumoto said.

A long procession of speakers offered public comments aimed at immigration, the effect on the city and the position of the Trump Administration.

Several residents opposed the ordinance on the basis of the chilling effect it would have on residents who would then be fearful of reporting crime, or being reported by others in the city. American Civil Liberties Union representative Cynthia Valencia assured the council that passing of the ordinance would likely result in a lawsuit against the city.

After hearing the public comments on both sides of the ordinance, the council voted 4-1 to give preliminary approval to the measure, with Councilman Mark Chirco voting against it.

Chirco said he was concerned about potential lawsuits hurting the city. He said that Los Alamitos was not the appropriate venue for the issue. “I cannot see how passing this ordinance is good for the city,” Chirco said.

Despite the potential backlash and the argument that Los Alamitos is a small city that has no business taking on these large issues, Edgar said that Los Alamitos officials have never shied away from taking leadership roles throughout the county and beyond.

“As the mayor of Los Alamitos, we are not a sanctuary city,” Edgar said.

The council will have to vote on the ordinance one more time at a future meeting before it becomes law.


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