At a contentious City Council meeting Wednesday night, Costa Mesa became the latest Orange County community to declare its official opposition to Senate Bill 54, the so-called sanctuary law that provides expanded protections for immigrants who have entered the country without permission.
The 3-2 vote to adopt a resolution against SB 54 prompted cheers and chants of “USA! USA!” from opponents of the law, who waited in City Hall until roughly 1 a.m. for the council’s vote.
Mayor Sandy Genis, Mayor Pro Tem Allan Mansoor and Councilman Jim Righeimer voted in favor of the resultion. Council members Katrina Foley and John Stephens cast the dissenting votes.
Opponents of the resolution responded with cries of outrage.
Council members who voted yes said they felt it was important to go on the record with their concerns about SB 54, which in many cases prohibits local and state police agencies from notifying federal officials when they’re about to release immigrants in their custody who may be subject to deportation.
“If you are putting people back on the street and then trying to re-apprehend them … that puts people at risk,” Genis said.
Stephens questioned the practical purpose of the resolution and said he’s concerned that it could diminish the city’s influence with state and federal legislators when it comes to other local issues, such as sober-living homes.
According to the resolution, “The adoption of SB 54 has created a conflict between state and federal law and has restricted local law enforcement’s ability to cooperate with federal authorities to protect California residents. This conflict leaves the City Council no choice but to publicly state its opposition to SB 54.”
Foley characterized the action as a divisive political stunt.
“I am never going to stand on the side of hate and bigotry and divisive politics,” she said. “I am always going to stand on the side of justice and care and community.”
But Mansoor said: “This is not about bashing immigrants. If this was about bashing immigrants, I’d be bashing my parents. My parents both immigrated here legally … and they have always taught me to respect legal immigration and upholding our laws.”
The debate played out in front of a large and sometimes rowdy crowd, on both sides of the issue. People waved American flags and held signs with messages such as “Immigrants in, racists out,” “You must uphold the Constitution,” “Respect our country” and “I support safe communities, I support SB 54.”
Genis repeatedly admonished the audience for interrupting speakers with applause or boos. Several times she threatened to clear the chamber if the crowd didn’t pipe down, and she asked police officers to temporarily remove people who were being disruptive.
In approving the resolution, Costa Mesa joined the register of Orange County municipalities that have taken official action opposing California’s sanctuary laws, including Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Fountain Valley, Aliso Viejo, Los Alamitos, Orange, San Juan Capistrano, Yorba Linda and the county itself.
Huntington Beach and others have gone further by filing lawsuits against California and the state attorney general challenging the legality of the state’s sanctuary mandates.
Council members in Fountain Valley chose to join a court brief supporting an ongoing federal lawsuit against the laws, and the Newport Beach City Council said it might follow up with a court brief to accompany its own resolution opposing SB 54.