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San Diego County considers suing California over 'sanctuary state' law in growing backlash

San Diego County considers suing California over 'sanctuary state' law in growing backlash
Protesters in Orange County condemn California's "sanctuary state" law. Pushback against the law may soon move to San Diego County. (Los Angeles Times)

The pushback against California’s “sanctuary state” law may soon move from Orange County to San Diego County, where the Board of Supervisors and Escondido City Council will decide soon whether to join the backlash.

Escondido Mayor Sam Abed and Councilman John Masson have put an item on the Sunday agenda that would authorize the city’s filing of a legal brief in support of the federal government’s lawsuit challenging three state laws enacted last year.

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“I expect it to pass,” Abed said Wednesday.

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors is expected to discuss the matter in closed session on April 17.

“I’ve always supported the great working relationship between the Sheriff’s Department and federal law enforcement agencies, and it needs to continue,” said Supervisor Dianne Jacob, adding that she intends to support the county joining the lawsuit.

Escondido appears to be the first city in San Diego County to tackle the issue.

The inland North County city would join the Orange County Board of Supervisors, which on Tuesday voted 4 to 0 to join the federal lawsuit as a “friend of the court.” Several other cities in Orange County are also beginning to take action against the state’s sanctuary laws.

Senate Bill 54, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last year, prohibits state and local police agencies from notifying federal officials in many cases when they have immigrants in their custody who could be subject to deportation.

San Diego County supervisors, all Republicans, will consider the Trump administration’s lawsuit against the state’s sanctuary policy as well as California’s lawsuit against the administration’s decision to ask about citizenship in the 2020 census when members convene in closed session April 17, said a spokeswoman for Supervisor Kristin Gaspar.

The board typically doesn’t discuss lawsuits openly, but any decision to take a side in the cases would later become a matter of public record.

In an interview Wednesday, San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore said he does not think the county should get involved in the administration’s lawsuit against the state’s sanctuary policies.

“I’d tell them stay out of it. … That would be my recommendation,” he said.

Deputies shouldn’t act as immigration officers because it might deter people who are in the country illegally from reporting crimes, making them vulnerable to victimhood, he said.

“For domestic violence, they won’t report it to the cops if they’re in the country illegally,” Gore said.

Escondido Police Chief Craig Carter said he preferred not to comment since he hasn’t seen what his council is proposing.

In 2006, Escondido made national headlines when it tried to enact an ordinance that would have punished local landlords who rented dwellings to immigrants who were in the country illegally.

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The city became the focus of large protests, Fox News broadcast live from beneath the green dome in front of City Hall, and the rift in the city between its Latino and white populations intensified. That was exacerbated by DUI and driver’s license checkpoints conducted by local police, often in Latino parts of town, as well as other policies adopted by the council around the same time.

The city has been trying to distance itself from racial issues ever since.

Though the city is more than 50% Latino, Escondido Councilwoman Olga Diaz, the lone Democrat and Latina on the council, often finds herself on the losing end of 4-1 votes. She said Wednesday that she has not yet seen what the council will be asked to vote on next week, but said she will “be engaged” when the vote is taken.

“Here we go again,” she said.

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