The Orange County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to join a federal lawsuit against California’s sanctuary laws, specifically Senate Bill 54, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed last year. Bill 54 prohibits state and local police from notifying federal officials when undocumented immigrants in their custody who may be subject to deportation are to be released. Despite serving as home to hundreds of thousands of immigrants, Orange County has a decades-long reputation as a conservative GOP base and a history of anti-immigrant policies.

The Trump administration, which has taken its case to federal court, hopes to invalidate the law on the grounds that it obstructs federal immigration policy and violates the Constitution’s supremacy clause, which prioritizes federal law over state law. The case is still pending.

The case is not the administration’s first crackdown on jurisdictions that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration laws. Only days after his inauguration, Trump issued an executive order seeking to withhold federal funds from cities that did not fully cooperate with federal immigration agents. That order was struck down by a judge in November.

President Trump tweeted Wednesday: “My Administration stands in solidarity with the brave citizens in Orange County defending their rights against California’s illegal and unconstitutional Sanctuary policies. California’s Sanctuary laws … release known dangerous criminals into communities across the State. All citizens have the right to be protected by Federal law and strong borders.”

California state Sen. Kevin de León, who wrote SB 54, released a statement aimed at cities that wish to oppose sanctuary laws. It reads: “Pushing a racist and anti-immigrant agenda devoid of facts or supporting legal analysis is a pretty sad use of taxpayer resources, especially when it could result in crippling legal costs for cities that rush to join this dead-end effort.”

Roberto Herrera, a coordinator for Resilience O.C., a Santa Ana-based immigrant advocacy group, says the county’s decision reflects a larger “fear of this progressive wave suddenly taking over Orange County.” He adds: “The political conservative elite are scapegoating and creating false archetypes of undocumented immigrants in Orange County. They are using this fear to push their own campaigns forward.”

Indeed, Orange County has a history of anti-immigrant legislation and connection to such laws. The 1994 statewide ballot measure Proposition 187, also known as the Save Our State initiative, had roots in the county. The proposition, approved by California voters, sought to deny public schooling, health care and other services to undocumented immigrants (the measure was struck down by courts).

The Los Angeles Times writes:

… Costa Mesa passed anti-day laborer ordinances and became the epicenter of the anti-illegal immigration movement during the mid-2000s.

Since then, however, much of the county’s anti-illegal immigration fervor has eased after many of its cities experienced an influx of Latino and Asian immigrants.

But the anti-sanctuary momentum gaining ground in Orange County shows that it remains a place with a very conservative core.

Truthdig columnist Bill Blum says that Orange County’s rebellion against the California sanctuary movement is “a subset of the new, progressive form of federalism that is spreading across the country in response to the reactionary policies of the Trump administration on immigration and environmental regulation. Left without federal safeguards to relay on, liberal states are trying on their own to save what’s left of the social safety net, and protect their most vulnerable residents from the administration’s nativist agenda.”

He has also said: “What we’re seeing now with Orange County is a conservative enclave staging its own mini-uprising against the new progressive federalism of the state as a whole. Where this all ends, legally and politically, remains very much in doubt.”


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