What First Defeat of DOJ Suit Against State’s “Sanctuary” Laws Means for OC

FAIR’s Susan Tulley tastes defeat. Vimeo screenshot

By Abigail Marin 

“Standing aside does not equate to standing in the way.” 

United States District Judge John A. Mendez’s words in response to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ lawsuit deeming California’s “Sanctuary State” laws as “actively obstructing federal law enforcement” helped deliver the federal legal challenge its first defeat in court on Thursday. 

Mendez kept SB 54 and AB 103 in full effect. Orange County Immigrant Youth United recalls that SB 54 (aka California Values Act) limits local law enforcement cooperation with the federal deportation machine and AB 103 requires the state attorney general to inspect detention prisons and provide a report of confinement conditions.

Despite those two initial victories, Mendez also allowed suspension of certain sections from AB 450 which stipulated warrants be requested before Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids work cites and prevented the agency from reevaluating employees’ lawful status.

Taken all together, though, immigrant rights groups like OCIYU see Thursday’s court decision as a victory. This ruling reinforces the protective shield for California residents, its undocumented communities and their environment. This is also a major defeat for local Trump mobs who railed against SB 54 at city council meetings in OC and elsewhere. 

We must remind ourselves that there is a deep chasm in OC between those who seek sanctuary for all and those who fight against. OC still remains a place with an entrenched conservative core. Cities like Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach, Los Alamitos and Yorba Linda jumped aboard the anti-sanctuary state revolt in the Spring, most in concert with the Federation for Immigration Reform (FAIR), an anti-immigrant hate group, in supporting the Sessions’ suit.

The revolt spread to Newport Beach and Westminster in early April. “I am disappointed in the young people here,” said Westminster councilwoman Margie Rice during a meeting. In addition, Rice also stated those who disobey federal laws “should go somewhere else.”

For politicians, like county supervisor Shawn Nelson and Aliso Viejo mayor Dave Harrington, using the anti-immigrant revolt to bring attention to their campaigns didn’t fare too well for them in the June elections. Nelson didn’t finish in the top-two primary for Rep. Ed Royce’s congressional seat. The same was true for Harrington’s failed bid to become the next OC Sheriff. 

Time and time again, we see that cities across OC continue to relentlessly condemn and frame the California Values Act as “federal security” threat out of a racist fear. In the spirit of  justice, we must protect our sanctuary laws and due process for everyone.

The undocumented immigrant community isn’t safe from the abusive detention and deportation system. Amid anti-immigrant hysteria, every employer, worker, resident, and undocumented person has the right to exercise their right from being exploited. 

We’re not standing on the side and we’re not standing in the way. We’re bringing back the dignity our communities have deserved since day one. Let’s hope Mendez’s court ruling inspires other lawmakers to follow and represent the basic humanity we all need.

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