Amy Taxi, Associated Press, April 15, 2018
More local governments in California are resisting the state’s efforts to resist the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown, and political experts see politics at play as Republicans try to fire up voters in a state where the GOP has grown weak.
Since the Jeff Sessions-led Department of Justice sued California last month over its so-called “sanctuary state” law limiting police collaboration with immigration agents, at least a dozen local governments have voted to either join or support the lawsuit or for resolutions opposing the state’s position. Those include the Board of Supervisors in Orange County, which has more than 3 million people.
More action is coming this week, with leaders in the Orange County city of Los Alamitos scheduled to vote Monday on a proposal for a local law to exempt the community of 12,000 from the state law. On Tuesday, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors is meeting to consider joining the Trump administration lawsuit.
In recent years, California Republicans have taken a less strident approach to immigration in a state where one in four people are foreign-born. But the Trump administration lawsuit has energized many in a party that has been rendered nearly irrelevant at the state level, where Democrats control every key office.
“When the attorney general of the United States decides to take a firm position against it, I think that gave a signal to a lot of us that, ‘Hey, California is on the wrong side of this thing,'” said Fred Whitaker, chairman of the Republican Party in Orange County. He also is a councilman in the city of Orange who proposed a local resolution on the issue that passed last week.
“Politics is very much about emotions, especially in midterms,” [Raphael Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at California State University, Los Angeles,] said. “I think it was only a matter of time when people went back to the issue that actually hits the nerve in the Republican base these days more than any other.”
Most of the local governments siding with the Trump administration are in Orange County, an area once considered a GOP stronghold but that voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. But it’s starting to spread.
Escondido in neighboring San Diego County has voted to support the federal lawsuit and last week the small city of Ripon in the state’s Central Valley did the same.
In many cases, meetings on the issue have drawn boisterous crowds. Anti-illegal immigration activists have traveled from city to city to attend, heightening tensions with those who want their communities to support immigrant-friendly policies or stay out of the fray.