Immigration Law Faces Resident Backlash

El Dorado County residents packed Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting to speak out against Senate Bill 54, known as California’s “sanctuary state” law.

Passed last October, SB 54 prohibits state and local law enforcement from reporting criminals to federal immigration authorities, unless the criminal has been convicted of a serious crime. The list of the legislation’s relevant offenses is lengthy, but includes felonies like rape, kidnapping, stalking, various forms of abuse, possession of an unlawful weapon, felony-status DUI and involvement in drug trafficking.

The bill requires the state Attorney General’s office to create model policies by Oct. 1, limiting the extent to which public facilities like schools, hospitals, libraries and courthouses can aid immigration authorities. It also subjects law enforcement agencies to annual reports of how many immigrants they send to federal authorities.

Last year Tehama and Siskiyou counties approved measures opposing the bill, while the Orange County city of Los Alamitos made national news late last month after opting out of the law. On Monday the city of Huntington Beach voted to sue the state over the law, according to the Orange County Register.

Bringing the debate closer to home, several El Dorado County residents took to the mic Tuesday while more than 100 watched, jammed into chambers that were standing-room-only. Supervisors received a letter from Rep. Tom McClintock formally opposing the bill, though the letter was not read aloud during the meeting.

County Sheriff John D’Agostini said the bill concerns him and that his department does not seek out people who are in the U.S. illegally. They do not conduct immigration sweeps, he said, and “this has nothing to do with the agriculture communities.”

“When we have someone here illegally in this country and it comes to [our] attention…due to criminal activity, we absolutely do need to cooperate with our federal counterparts,” D’Agostini said. “That’s what SB 54 stops.”

Frank Merritt, vice chair of the county’s Republican Central Committee, echoed D’Agostini’s distinction between criminal immigrants and “normal immigrants trying to make a living.”

By Mackenzie Myers for MOUNTAIN DEMOCRATS
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