The vice mayor of Placerville sought a City Council vote on Tuesday to oppose a state Senate bill that would make California a de facto “sanctuary state” for undocumented immigrants.
The resolution was pulled from the agenda after a majority of people in the standing-room-only crowd in the City Council chambers said they opposed Vice Mayor Wendy Thomas’ proposal.
Thomas said in an interview that her resolution opposing Senate Bill 54 is not anti-immigrant but was instead borne out of concerns that the Trump administration will cut off funding to local and state governments that do not enforce federal immigration laws.
“I was amazed that people had no idea that we were riding a bullet train toward sanctuary state status,” Thomas said. “This has nothing to do with being anti-immigrant; I certainly don’t feel that way. It’s just about making sure that we are walking into a critical policy with our eyes wide open.”
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SB 54, by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, would prohibit state and local law enforcement officials – including those that oversee schools, hospitals and courthouses – from helping federal immigration enforcement. It would also prohibit state agencies from sharing individuals’ immigration status for federal enforcement purposes.
Already, California cities such as Sacramento, San Francisco and Los Angeles have in some way identified themselves as sanctuary cities that won’t cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
Thomas said she will not bring her resolution opposing the bill back for a City Council vote. She wrote on her personal blog that she had pulled the item from the council agenda because she had not first sought input from other City Council members on whether they wanted to debate the issue.
However, most of the large crowd that attended Tuesday’s meeting demanded the item be rejected. Autumn Gonzalez, an attorney and a member of the El Dorado Progressives group, helped organize the public response to Thomas’ resolution. She said the resolution “feels more like xenophobia than a legitimate issue.”
“I just thought it sent a very discriminatory and ugly message about our community that I didn’t want to see happen,” she said. “It’s more important to have the right values and to stand for human rights than be concerned if our town gets a little grant money from the feds.”
The debate will likely be repeated in several of California’s rural communities.
In the past month, supervisors in Tehama and Siskiyou counties have passed resolutions declaring that they will not be sanctuaries to undocumented immigrants. A supervisor in Shasta County sought the same declaration on Tuesday, but the board declined to advance the proposal, the Redding Record Searchlight newspaper reported.
President Donald Trump won 52 percent of the vote in El Dorado County. Thomas said residents in Placerville, the county seat, are “probably a 50-50 split” on whether they support sanctuary cities and states.
“A lot of us in our community are concerned about big-city policies that come down as a state mandate because our small, rural voices are often not taken into account in Sacramento,” she said. “We needed to ask, ‘How will this affect us?’ ”