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OC Cities Can’t Ignore Sanctuary State Law or The Activism That It Inspired

Pastor Sam Pullen of Los Alamitos speaks out. Photo courtesy NDLON

By Salvador G. Sarmiento, Guest Columnist 

Having joined Los Alamitos and Huntington Beach residents taking their city officials to the 4th District Court of Appeals in Santa Ana last week over the racist political stunt that’s been the anti-Sanctuary State offensive, it’s a good moment to celebrate Orange County activism. It’s turning the tide locally and inspiring communities across the state to defend immigrants’ civil rights and the sanctuary cities that uphold them.

Last spring, President Donald Trump and former attorney general Jeff Sessions hatched an idea–sue the state of California and roll-out an anti-immigrant campaign OC, the historical haven of xenophobia. After all, it’s the birthplace of proposition 187, which passed 25 year ago this November. All didn’t go as planned for Trump, Sessions, or for the elected officials in OC that followed along.

California had just overwhelmingly passed the strongest anti-Trumpism law in the country–the California Values Act (SB 54), ensuring most local and state resources aren’t utilized for mass deportations. The Golden State offered an important example: You need not comply with Trump’s backward threats.

Guided by a small but obnoxious hate circus, and the possibility of inciting their base for coming elections, the mayors of Los Alamitos and Huntington Beach both sided with Trump and tried to “opt-out” of this law. Los Alamitos sought an exit through an ordinance, Huntington Beach through a lawsuit of its own. Suffice to say, you can’t just opt out of most state law, but you can see where this is going. City residents immediately sued to ensure officials complied with SB 54.

Los Alamitos and Huntington Beach residents of conscience weren’t happy about their cities being used for political stunts, to put it mildly. Neither were dozens of civil rights, faith and community groups including Los Alamitos Community United, Oak View Comunidad, the Korean Resource Center, VietRISE, the ACLU of Southern California, Indivisible, Resilience OC, Chispa, CLUE OC, CHIRLA, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, and many, many more residents, neighbors, parents, activists, artists, and musicians that happily denounced their city officials for siding with hate groups, often with songs, dance, and the most colorful hand-made posters ever.

One year later, the cities of Los Alamitos and Huntington Beach have needlessly wasted taxpayer money to defend their political stunt in court from their own residents, their attorneys, and from the public gaze of history itself. Though a local judge handed Huntington Beach an early reprieve from the law, just last week, residents took their city officials to court on appeal, and assuredly they will win.

Ironically, Trump’s anti-immigrant offensive in OC galvanized a new generation of human rights activists and the consensus became clear, “We celebrate sanctuary here.” Those officials that sided with the hate circus will not soon forget. Meanwhile, Trump continues to lose in federal court and new areas in OC are now fair game to talk sanctuary, civil and human rights–from Little Saigon to Laguna Niguel.

It’s an inspiring lesson and an example in the midst of the Trump era. Of course, there’s still a long way to go, but don’t take my word for it. You can ask any of the current GOP members of congress from OC–oh, wait.

Salvador G. Sarmiento is campaign director for the National Day Laborers Organizing Network