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Coalition publishes letter blasting O.C. and Westminster officials for stances against Calif.’s sanctuary law

Little Saigon for Sanctuary and Human Rights rally in Westminster
An open letter to the O.C. Board of Supervisors and Westminster City Council was published Monday, following a Little Saigon Sanctuary and Human Rights rally that took place in Westminster on July 18, 2019.
(Courtesy of VietRISE)

A coalition of 25 Vietnamese American, Asian American, immigrant, student, and civil rights organizations published an open letter on Monday slamming Orange County government officials for siding with the Trump administration as it challenges California’s so-called “sanctuary” law, which prohibits state and local police agencies from using their resources to enforce federal immigration law.

One copy of the letter, which was also translated into Vietnamese, was sent to the Orange County Board of Supervisors, singling out Vietnamese American Supervisor Andrew Do, and another to the Westminster City Council, singling out Vietnamese American Mayor Tri Ta.

“As the largest Vietnamese community in the United States and outside of Vietnam, and as a community of refugees and immigrants, our elected officials must commit to and stand up for the human rights that we strongly value as a community,” the letter states.

Among the signatories of the letters are VietRISE, Viet-CARE, VietUnity - Southern California, ACLU - Southern California, Asian American Advancing Justice - Orange County, Together We Will OC, Associated Students of UC Irvine, Korean Resource Center, California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance and Women For: Orange County.

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The letter follows a “ Little Saigon for Human Rights: Close the Camps March & Rally ” that attracted hundreds to Westminster on July 18.

Andrew Do
Andrew Do was singled out in the recently-published open letter criticizing the O.C. Board of Supervisors for its stance opposing California's sanctuary state law.
(Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times)

Supervisor Andrew Do, whose district includes Little Saigon, declined to comment on the letter. Westminster Mayor Tri Ta did not respond to requests for comment.

In March 2018, the Board of Supervisors voted 4-0 to join the federal lawsuit against California’s sanctuary laws, following a resolution led by Supervisor Michelle Steel, whose husband Shawn Steel is a member of the Republican National Committee and the former chairman of the state GOP.

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“We cannot allow this to happen in Orange County and we need to protect our families and our homes here in Orange County,” she said. “And that means bolstering our cooperation with federal immigration enforcement and stopping our county from becoming a sanctuary for criminal illegal immigrants.”

Do was absent for the vote. The supervisor frustrated activists last year when he abruptly ended a public forum about the County Sheriff Department’s cooperation with federal immigration agents before O.C. Sheriff Don Barnes could address residents’ concerns.

Westminster mayor Tri Ta
Westminster Mayor Tri Ta, standing in front of the Vietnam War Memorial in Westminster. He recently defended his stance to support the Trump administration as they challege California's sanctuary state law.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

The Westminster City Council followed the Supervisors lead and voted in April 2018 to join the group of Orange County cities supporting a lawsuit filed by Huntington Beach claiming that SB 54 unconstitutionally interferes with the city’s charter authority to enforce local laws and regulations.

At the contentious Westminster meeting last year, Ta defended his vote, claiming he couldn’t be anti-immigrant, because he was an immigrant himself.

“Vietnamese immigrants, we all came here, the majority of the Vietnamese came here as political refugees because…we lost our country,” Ta said, according to the Voice of OC. “However, we all came here legally, with a process.”

The case is being appealed by the California Department of Justice after the trial judge ruled in Huntington Beach’s favor.

The entire Westminster City Council now faces a potential recall campaign for unrelated political and transparency issues.

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VietRISE Executive Director Tracy La wrote in an email that her organization isn’t taking a position on the recall effort.

“Right now, VietRISE, along with the two dozen groups in the letter, are focused on calling out Mayor Tri Ta’s and Supervisor Andrew Do’s decisions to side with hate groups,” La wrote. “But it’s clear that there is great frustration in the community.”

Reporting for this story was contributed by Los Angeles Times staff writer Cindy Carcamo and former staff writer Jazmine Ulloa.

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