Santa Clarita, Los Alamitos officials weigh in on reasons for opposing S.B. 54

Activists assemble outside of Santa Clarita City Council chambers on Tuesday, May 8, 2018. Crystal Duan/The Signal
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After hearing public comment until 1 a.m., the Santa Clarita City Council unanimously voted on May 8 to oppose California sanctuary law and file a brief in support of the Trump administration’s lawsuit against the state.

Santa Clarita is the first city in Los Angeles County to formally support the lawsuit against Senate Bill 54, the state law that limits state and local law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

The first city to do so in California was the Orange County city of Los Alamitos, which approved an ordinance claiming exemption from S.B. 54 in March, and later filed an amicus brief to join the lawsuit. Also in March, Orange County signed on to the federal lawsuit, while the city of Huntington Beach has sued California in state court.

Los Alamitos and Santa Clarita share a key difference in how opposing S.B. 54 would play out. Los Alamitos has its own police department, while Santa Clarita, on the other hand, contracts its policing services through LA County.

All deputies who patrol the Santa Clarita Valley would have to respond to the county’s stance on S.B. 54, which is different than the city of Santa Clarita’s, rendering the amicus brief mostly a ceremonial statement.

Santa Clarita City Councilman Cameron Smyth told the Signal on Wednesday he had asked for a staff review and report prior to the May 8 meeting for this reason. Smyth wanted to know the consequences of opposing the bill while in a policing agreement with the county.

“(We knew sheriff’s officials) aren’t going to have a different policy for each of the 40-plus cities that they police before we put it on the agenda,” he said. “So yes, I fully recognize that even if S.B. 54 is repealed, there isn’t a direct impact on Santa Clarita. As long as the (sheriff’s officials) maintain their policy, that is how they are going to police our community.”However, Smyth also noticed the state’s passing of S.B. 54 eroded local governmental control.

“Whether it comes to land use, water use or business licensing, Sacramento continually wants to consolidate power in the Capitol away from the local residents,” Smyth said. “By filing the brief in support of the litigation, it’s a way for SCV to support the fight for local control. It is worth doing.”

Los Alamitos’ incentive to join in suing California was also an issue of local control, according to the city’s Mayor Troy Edgar.

“Senate Bill 54 tries to insert the state’s jurisdiction and tell our police what they and cannot do,” he said. “They are basically stepping in to tell us what our rights are with our police department.”

Although not much may change right away in the city, Mayor Laurene Weste believed the filing still sent an important message to federal and state legislators.

“I would hope it sends a message to Washington,” she told the Signal on Wednesday. “We have people frustrated at meetings from years of waiting for Washington to listen to them. We are their closest form of government. Washington should know there’s a job to get done for everyone’s safety. They need to start a civil discussion on how to resolve these (immigration) issues. But you’re going to have to make some compromises to get that done.”

Mayor Pro Tem Marsha McLean agreed with her fellow council members.

“The state continues to pass legislation that undermines local control,” she said on Wednesday. “There comes a time when cities and local governments need to say enough is enough. Law enforcement needs to be able to do their job to maintain safety for all of our families.”

Councilman Bob Kellar, who brought the item up for discussion in March, said he was aware the city did not have the power to dictate how L.A. County provided policing services.

“But what we were able to accomplish is send out a message not only to Sacramento and our leaders, but also to our federal leaders in Washington,” Kellar, who will be on Fox News’ “The Laura Ingraham Show” on Wednesday night, told The Signal. “That message is that at least one city in L.A. County absolutely opposes S.B. 54 and everything it stands for. I feel this was an appropriate thing to do in the face of what is occurring in the state of California. There are so many issues that I know our citizens are becoming increasingly upset over and that became very evident last night.”

Councilman Bill Miranda could not be reached for comment on Wednesday afternoon.

Overall, Smyth was concerned that the community wasn’t clear on what filing the amicus brief would or wouldn’t do, and that people on both sides of the aisle were trying to use the bill as a platform for a greater debate on immigration.

“We try our best to articulate that this does not make Santa Clarita a non-sanctuary city, nor does it immediately allow for ICE to come into Santa Clarita and start taking families back to their country of origin,” he said. “It’s important to remember S.B. 54 just took effect in January, and prior to that you didn’t see federal immigration officials patrolling the streets of SCV looking to check people’s papers. Even if S.B. 54 is repealed, it just goes back to the status quo as it was up until Dec. 31, where nobody was coming to City hall complaining about a threat to our Latino population.”

Ultimately, Smyth and other city council members wanted to hold the federal government responsible for the state’s current situation.

“We’re only dealing with this because the federal government has failed in their constitutional obligations,” he said. “They’re charged with developing the immigration policies and laws, and have failed to do so for decades and leaves it to the states trying to find solutions locally.”

Santa Clarita is currently one of 34 cities and three counties across California to oppose S.B. 54.

Other Orange County cities, such as Mission Viejo, Aliso Viejo, Newport Beach and Orange have also joined suit.

Edgar said he was appreciative of Santa Clarita’s leadership and for “setting an example for L.A. County.”

“I’ve looked at the Santa Clarita Valley as a gateway to Bakersfield and Fresno, to keep working this north,” he said. “We did not agree with the state stepping in — that should’ve been the jurisdiction of the U.S. government.”


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