Saturday, April 14, 2018

Orange County, CA: Where the Sanctuary and Anti-Sanctuary Movements are Meeting Head-On


(Photo cr: OC Register)

Various commentators have remarked that Orange County, CA has emerged as ground zero for Attorney General Jeff Session’s attack on sanctuary jurisdictions. In the wake of the filing of Session v. California, the federal lawsuit seeking to invalidate three California laws aimed at providing greater protection to immigrants in the areas of policing, workplace rights, and detention, various Orange County lawmakers have taken steps to choose sides in the conflict. Most notably, the Orange County Board of Supervisors (which governs county-level affairs) voted to side with Sessions in the lawsuit. The first Orange County city to act was Los Alamitos, which voted in mid-March to “opt-out” of California’s SB 54, which limits local law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration authorities. The following city councils have also opted to take some action in favor of the federal government: Aliso Viejo, Escondido, Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach, Mission Viejo, Newport Beach, Orange, San Juan Capistrano, Westminster, Yorba Linda and Orange County.  At some level, the fact that Orange County has seen this movement may not be a surprise. After all, Orange County was home to early 287(g) agreements (in which the Orange County Sheriff’s Department entered into an agreement to deputize its own agents to perform certain immigration functions), and served as the birthplace for the anti-immigrant ordinance Proposition 187 in the early 1990s. It is also believed that the Federation for Immigration Reform has orchestrated much of the outreach urging Orange County leaders to oppose sanctuary.

But a strong immigrant rights movement in Orange County has developed over time as well, and is growing. In part as a result of local advocacy, Fullerton and West Covina considered acting but chose not to.  The City of Santa Ana (which has its own sanctuary policy, and has also funded deportation defense for its residents) took pro-sanctuary actions. Many, many local organizers, attorneys and residents from Orange County have shown up at city council meetings, spoken forcefully in support of immigrants, and urged their city councils (and the Board of Supervisors) to support the state’s sanctuary law. As one example, in this op-ed for Voice of OC, local leader Carlos Perea urges Orange County not to be persuaded by the anti-immigrant rhetoric being circulated. In the OC Weekly, organizer Erik Garcia asserts that Orange County is placing itself on the wrong side of history and throws the public safety rationale into question.

In fact, a recent poll conducted by Chapman University of Orange County residents found Trump’s approval rating at only 37 percent, and also found that the majority of residents believe that immigrants contribute to society, believe that immigrants should have a pathway to legalization, and favor DACA.

Interestingly, in “Sanctuary Opponents Travel from Town to Town, Screaming an Agenda,” the Orange County Register reports that a relatively small group of people – perhaps 20 or so – have consistently served as the voice of the anti-sanctuary movement in the area. As the article explains:

“They talk proudly about the rule of law and patriotism. But on their own videos, which they share on social media, they also use insults and anti-Semitic language. And they sometimes single out people on the other side of the sanctuary debate with words and behavior that border on threats.”

As an Orange County resident myself, I’ve seen the anti-sanctuary protestors in action. As a person of color, I do not feel safe around them. If public safety matters to Orange County leaders, they will step aside from the Sessions-California fight and instead focus on building a community for all in Orange County. 


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