By Samuel Paramore
It’s been almost six months since California’s “Sanctuary State” bill was signed into law, marking a still-lacking but substantial step towards human rights for undocumented immigrants. Then, Attorney General Jeff Sessions filed a lawsuit against it and other protective laws, which is still pending in the courts. Of course, it’d be only a matter of time before some conservative town piggybacked on this attempt to destroy SB 54. Last Monday, Los Alamitos became that town.
Los Alamitos city council had a open discussion and a vote on an ordinance against SB 54. The importance of the symbolism of this ordinance drew in people from all over the state. There was a divide in council chambers the entire meeting, both literally (in split-up camps) and in belief. On one side were the immigrants fighting for their human dignity and those allied with them. On the other side, despite whatever weak statement they attempted to veil themselves under, were Know Nothing attention seekers.
Clergy from different faiths sang traditional songs altered with pro-immigrant lyrics to drown out the idiotic hate slogans shouted from Trump-loving media hogs. The Know Nothings arrived early to fill up the entire council chambers. We mostly laughed at the antics of the alt-right. When they blabbered about the border wall, we shouted back that they were going to pay for it. More soberly, children of undocumented parents spoke to council during public comments having to defend themselves and their families against this ordinance. Members of the community, from teenagers to senior citizens, spoke about their dissatisfaction at the very matter being brought up before council.
Others spoke about the racist animosity they always felt directed towards them or undocumented people they knew. Activists questioned how the council thought this was a smart move, for a city as small as Los Alamitos to be taking on the certainty of litigation with the taxpayer money. Of course, there was the other side, a side that could fill a whole room, but couldn’t even fill a quarter of their arguments with substance. They falsely claimed that “2,500 are killed by illegal immigrants a month,” as others in their crowd blasted air horns and hissed at opposite speakers. Model citizens?
Despite the rational and humane points brought up against the ordinance, council members voted 4-1 to move forward on opting out of SB 54. The next vote on final approval is scheduled for Apr. 16. But Los Alamitos already set a dangerous precedent by taking the lead from xenophobic hate groups like Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), emboldening others in the county to similarly explore how to refuse complying with the Sanctuary State law. If we sink back into immigration enforcement practices before SB 54, there will be even less accountability for la migra’s actions. Undocumented people will return to the shadows. The deported will have their families torn apart. Detainees will endure the cruelty of detention centers.
With Orange County Supervisor Shawn Nelson openly seeking to emulate Los Alamitos, various immigrant rights activist groups are turning out to protest at 8:30 a.m. before the board’s meeting this morning. I urge everyone who can to show up and not give the Supes one more inch to enact a harmful backlash. California has only just begun to make steps towards a human dignity that was given at birth, and never should have to be fought for. Undocumented immigrants are not going to be dragged backwards.