Two days after Los Alamitos city council adopted an ordinance opting-out of the California Values Act, attorneys filed a lawsuit challenging the legality of the move. The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California (ACLU), the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) and the Latham & Watkins firm joined together in representing Los Alamitos residents and a newly formed community group. They gathered outside of city hall this morning for a press conference announcing the suit’s filing.
“The Los Alamitos city council cannot pick and chose which state laws it will and will not follow,” Sameer Ahmed, an ACLU staff attorney, said at the press conference. “The city’s actions are clearly unlawful. The Los Alamitos ordinance causes significant harm by wasting taxpayer resources, increasing fear among Los Alamitos immigrant communities and authorizing Los Alamitos agencies, including the police department and school district, to violate the Values Act.”
The California Values Act, also known as SB 54, limits state and local agencies ability to collaborate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and makes safe zones of public schools, hospitals and courtrooms. That Los Alamitos now faces a lawsuit comes as no surprise. In a Mar. 19 letter obtained by the Weekly, the ACLU and NDLON called the proposed ordinance “an offensive endorsement of the Trump Administration’s anti-immigrant agenda” and warned council members that adoption of it would lead to a taxpayer lawsuit.
In making good on the promise, the suit asks that the court declare the opt-out ordinance to be unlawful and issue an injunction making the city comply with the California Values Act.
“The sole reason offered by the City Council for enacting the Ordinance is its belief that ‘the California Values Act may be in direct conflict with Federal Laws and the Constitution of the United States,'” the suit reads. “But California law does not allow local officials to unilaterally declare a state law unconstitutional and decline to follow it on that basis.” While other press outlets deemed the ordinance to be precedent-setting, attorneys cite numerous cases in arguing Los Alamitos clearly acted out of bounds.
The suit also paints Mayor Pro Tem Warren Kusumoto, who took the lead on the ordinance, as someone lacking a fundamental understanding of what the California Values Act even is. “He incorrectly described the Values Act as a ‘law that would cause business owners here to be arrested if the federal immigration [authorities]…come in and want to audit them,'” it reads. “And he incorrectly stated that the Values Act ‘says if you comply with the federal law, the Attorney General is going to come in there and arrest us.'”
Plaintiffs in the suit echoed its arguments at this morning’s press conference. “I’m here because I personally know undocumented individuals and families who will be affected by this illegal ordinance,” said Michelle Tio. The resident attended Los Alamitos High School and joined Los Alamitos Community United, a grassroots group represented in the suit. “There are currently Los Alamitos students and youth who are undocumented. They are hidden, but they are there.”
Chants of “Los Alamitos united will never be defeated” sounded between speakers. Reverend Sam Pullen of the Community Congregational United Church of Christ wore a butterfly pinned to his colorful stole to represent migration when explaining his reasons for joining the suit. “This is following a long tradition within the United Church of Christ,” he said of taking a stand against the ordinance. “It will hurt my congregation because it goes against the values that we stand for which are to welcome all, include all and to serve each other.”
After the press conference ended, NDLON litigation director Jessica Karp Bansal further expounded on the ordinance’s follies. “The ordinance puts city agencies in a very odd and difficult position,” she told the Weekly. “In Los Alamitos, in contrast to the rest of California, the local agencies have been told that they’re free to collaborate with immigration. And ICE has been explicitly invited into this city by the mayor.”
Rev. Pullen led a short, singing procession from outside city hall towards the community development planning department. City clerk Windmera Quintanar awaited the group with a polite smile as they handed over the suit. “I shared that, unfortunately because of the action of the council in passing this ordinance, we felt compelled to join a lawsuit,” Pullen told the Weekly. “We want her to give it to the council members and for them to follow the legal process for determining how they make their policy.”
Gabriel San Román is from Anacrime. He’s a journalist, subversive historian and the tallest Mexican in OC. He also once stood falsely accused of writing articles on Turkish politics in exchange for free food from DönerG’s!