SANTA ANA, CALIFORNIA - Residents sued the tiny Southern California city of Los Alamitos on Wednesday to challenge a vote by elected officials to exempt the community from a state law that limits police collaboration with U.S. immigration authorities.
The American Civil Liberties Union and other immigrant rights advocates said the lawsuit was filed in Superior Court in Orange County. It contends the city of 12,000 people cannot choose which state laws to follow and which laws to ignore, and that the actions of Los Alamitos leaders are wasting taxpayer money and scaring immigrants from attending church services.
“You can't hurt people in your community so you get airtime on Fox News,” said Jessica Karp Bansal, litigation director for the National Day Laborers Organizing Network and a lawyer for plaintiffs.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the group Los Alamitos Community United and a local pastor and an attorney. It came after Los Alamitos leaders voted to exempt the community from California's so-called immigrant sanctuary law, which limits police collaboration with federal deportation agents and aims to keep immigration enforcement out of public schools.
Mayor Troy Edgar said he had not seen the lawsuit and would be limited in what he could say about pending litigation. Messages seeking comment left at Los Alamitos City Hall were not immediately returned.
The lawsuit follows a spate of actions by Republican elected officials in at least a dozen California cities and in the state’s Orange and San Diego counties in recent weeks on the “sanctuary” law. Most have voted to lend support to a U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit filed last month against California or passed resolutions stating their position.
Los Alamitos, however, voted to adopt a local ordinance to exempt the city from California’s law, which immigrant advocates say could erode community members’ trust in local police and dampen attendance at church and community events.
California’s Democratic legislature passed the state law last year in response to President Donald Trump’s calls for more deportations and a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
The opposition has been largely in Orange County cities but has recently expanded to others.
It comes as Republicans aim to hold onto four key congressional seats in this year’s elections in Orange County, a region of 3.2 million people that was long considered a GOP stronghold but voted for Hillary Clinton over Trump in the 2016 presidential election.