Kellar, Smyth discuss concerns about S.B. 54, sanctuary cities

City of Santa Clarita City Hall

A Santa Clarita City Council member brought up discussion about recent controversial immigration actions in California from the dais Tuesday.

City Councilman Bob Kellar discussed the potential for Santa Clarita to agendize such a discussion around Senate Bill 54 and whether Santa Clarita should have its own response Wednesday.

On March 19, the Orange County city of Los Alamitos voted on an anti-sanctuary ordinance that would exempt the city from the California Values Act, Senate Bill 54. SB 54 took effect Jan. 1, and limits cooperation between California law enforcement and federal immigration authorities.

The law protects immigrants residing in California during a time when federal immigration authorities are cracking down on illegal residency.

Some California cities, such as Buena Park and Huntington Beach, are considering joining Los Alamitos. On the county level, Orange County is also considering defying the California Values Act, which could put the county at risk of litigation from the state.

Santa Clarita hasn’t taken an official stance on the issue or formally addressed the law yet, Kellar said Wednesday, when asked about his public comment.

Kellar said that he seeks to begin a discussion about putting sanctuary city status on a future City Council agenda so residents can comment.

“In my opinion, it’s long overdue that we as communities in the state of California be heard on this issue,” Kellar said on Wednesday. “It was my desire to see if we could get the item agendized with the intent of coming out and purporting to be a non-sanctuary city. I think it makes a very important statement for this community to come out and say that we profess to be a non-sanctuary city in Santa Clarita.”

Councilman Cameron Smyth, a former member of the California Legislature, said he opposed SB 54, and would have voted against it. But he is not yet comfortable taking a formal public stance without further research, Smyth said.

“Before I feel comfortable bringing the city of Santa Clarita into the debate on federal immigration policy, I think it’s prudent (we get) all the information before I would consider putting anything on the agenda,” Smyth said on Wednesday.

Smyth said he is curious about how the policing services of different cities factor into enforcement of the California Values Act. Santa Clarita, which is larger and more diverse, contracts policing services through the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, while the city of Los Alamitos differs, he said.

“The L.A. County (sheriff’s deputies) already have a policy in place when notifying federal immigration officials,” he said. “But does a city have the authority to direct those officers that work within the city boundaries to have a different policy than what the county policy is? I think that’s the most pressing question.”

Whether Santa Clarita, ultimately, follows suit or not, Smyth said he wants to be prepared by consulting the city attorney and legislative staff before taking action at a meeting.

“Before I consider subjecting Santa Clarita to what could be a protracted legal fight, I want to have all of the information,” he said. “The city of Costa Mesa chose to do a legal brief in support of Los Alamitos as opposed to instituting their own policy for that very reason.”

Smyth cited the city’s cannabis ordinance as an example of deliberate research.

“It took the city well over a year of research and investigation to put together a comprehensive ordinance, and I don’t think we should be wading into federal immigration policy in a month,” he said. “Santa Clarita has a good history of doing our homework and being thoughtful in the positions and policies we take and implement, (and) this should be no different.”

The three other City Council members—Mayor Laurene Weste, Marsha McLean and Bill Miranda—did not respond to a request for comment.

Kellar said the issue has “been on (his) mind for quite some time.”

“I feel very strongly that this whole thing of having a sanctuary state and sanctuary cities is ridiculous,” Kellar said. “We are putting our American citizens at additional risk and there’s no question about this—it’s costing our state ungodly billions of dollars.”

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