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Politicians who sparked anti-'sanctuary state' wave in California to meet with Trump

Politicians who sparked anti-'sanctuary state' wave in California to meet with Trump
Leonor Ferris, center left, and Genevieve Peters, right, of Los Angeles, celebrate last month after the Los Alamitos City Council's second reading of an ordinance aiming to opt out of California's sanctuary state law. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Los Alamitos Mayor Troy Edgar never expected to spark a political movement when his tiny Orange County city decided to take on California's "sanctuary state" law.

In April, Edgar and the rest of the City Council — representing a suburb of just 11,600 — took the stand, and it encouraged other conservative government bodies to follow suit.

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On Wednesday, Edgar and Los Alamitos Mayor Pro Tem Warren Kusumoto will join President Trump at the White House at the president's invitation.

Edgar sent a letter to Trump and Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions on May 1, requesting support. But he didn't expect an invitation.

"I remember signing … and thinking, 'This feels a bit far-fetched,' but our city has got behind us," Edgar said.

Orange County Supervisor Michelle Steel and a few elected officials from San Diego were also invited to the meeting with Trump to talk about the anti-sanctuary actions taken by various municipalities across the state, Edgar said.

In addition to Trump, Edgar said, Sessions, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and possibly Vice President Mike Pence will join them in the West Wing.

Los Alamitos made national headlines March 19 when it approved an ordinance aiming to exempt the city from California's sanctuary laws, which were designed to protect immigrants in the county illegally. The California Values Act, which took effect Jan. 1, restricts local law enforcement's cooperation with federal immigration officials in many cases.

The Trump administration has gone to federal court to invalidate the state laws, claiming they blatantly obstruct federal immigration regulations and violate the Constitution's supremacy clause, which gives federal law precedence over state measures. That case is pending. Los Alamitos leaders also voted to file an amicus brief to the Justice Department's lawsuit.

Since Los Alamitos' move to ignore state law, several cities in Orange County and other counties have voted to voice similar grievances and adopt similar resolutions. Some, such as the city of Yorba Linda, voted to write an amicus brief in support of the federal lawsuit against the state. Others, such as Huntington Beach, voted to file their own lawsuit. The Orange County Board of Supervisors approved a move to join as plaintiff in the federal lawsuit.

Last week, Santa Clarita became what is believed to be the first city in L.A. County to formally oppose California's sanctuary state law. After an hours-long meeting May 8, the City Council unanimously voted to adopt a resolution stating its opposition to Senate Bill 54 and directing the city attorney to file a brief in support of the federal government in its lawsuit against California. The measure was largely symbolic, as Santa Clarita does not have the power to exempt itself from the state's law. Neither do the other cities.

Kusumoto, who proposed the Los Alamitos initiative that thrust the city into the national immigration debate, has said he was compelled to introduce the measure because he believes the state's sanctuary laws are in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Los Alamitos Mayor Pro Tem Warren Kusumoto listens during public comments at a council meeting last month. He's been invited to meet with President Trump in the White House about immigration.
Los Alamitos Mayor Pro Tem Warren Kusumoto listens during public comments at a council meeting last month. He's been invited to meet with President Trump in the White House about immigration. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

SB 54 largely prohibits state and local law enforcement agencies from using personnel or funds to hold, question or share information about people with federal immigration agents unless those individuals have been convicted of any of 800 crimes outlined in a 2013 state law.

Federal immigration authorities can still work with state corrections officials and enter county jails to question immigrants.

Edgar, the Los Alamitos mayor, said he hopes the meeting will be productive and address sanctuary and immigration policy issues. At the same time, Edgar said he wants to "selfishly secure continued direct and indirect support for Los Alamitos and our battle with the ACLU and Gov. Brown."

The ACLU launched a lawsuit against Los Alamitos last month, contending that its ordinance violates state law and asking the court to declare the city's ordinance illegal.

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Even before the lawsuit, Edgar had launched a GoFundMe page to help pay for legal costs. As of Monday, the page had raised $22,145 of its $100,000 goal.

In an emailed invitation sent last week, a White House official said Trump is "excited to hear your story and get your perspective."

Steel, who introduced her own anti-sanctuary measure to the Orange County Board of Supervisors a few days after the Los Alamitos vote, called the meeting an "amazing opportunity."

"It is great to see so many leaders around California choosing to stand up for their constituents, and for the Constitution," she said in a written statement.

Follow Cindy Carcamo on Twitter @thecindycarcamo

UPDATES:

7 p.m.: This article has been updated throughout with additional details and background.

This article was originally published at 12:15 p.m.

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