Capitol Alert

Sanctuary state battle rages on in Placer County after court ruling upholds law

California’s sanctuary state status draws protesters outside federal court hearing

Protesters rally outside during a federal court hearing in Sacramento on California's sanctuary state status, Wednesday, June 20, 2018.
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Protesters rally outside during a federal court hearing in Sacramento on California's sanctuary state status, Wednesday, June 20, 2018.

A federal court ruling upholding California's controversial sanctuary state law hasn't quieted a debate on the state's immigration policies that is playing out in the Sacramento area.

Placer County residents crammed a Board of Supervisors' meeting in Auburn Tuesday afternoon to air their opinions on Senate Bill 54, the state law that limits the ability of state and local law enforcement to help federal agents enforce immigration law.

Local officials estimated more than 150 people turned out for the 1 p.m. meeting, filling the auditorium and two overflow rooms, to provide feedback on a resolution opposing SB 54. Public testimony went on for hours. A handful of officers from the Placer County Sheriff's office patrolled the gathering, which was occasionally testy but never violent.

The meeting came just 24 hours after U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez approved California's motion to throw out the Trump administration's lawsuit challenging the sanctuary state law.

Mendez also dismissed a legal challenge against another California law, Assembly Bill 103, which allows the state attorney general to inspect detention facilities, but allowed the federal government to proceed with its suit against a third, Assembly Bill 450, which allows the state to fine employers who do not automatically reject requests by the federal government to enter their workplaces without a warrant.

Both supporters and opponents of the sanctuary law who attended Tuesday's hearing in Auburn said the ruling by the Eastern District court, based in Sacramento, won't settle the political dispute over the immigration policies.

The court's decision "should change the discussion," said Angela Galvan Torrens, vice chair of the Placer County Democratic Central Committee, who addressed the five supervisors. But Torrens and other local Democratic activists predicted Tuesday that conservative politicians would continue to try and fight the sanctuary law as a way to rally their base. It's about "political division," she said.

The U.S. Department of Justice has not said whether it will appeal the district court's ruling.

The department issued a statement last week, after the same judge ruled against a federal request for injunctions against the laws, in which spokesman Devin O'Malley said the agency was "disappointed" that the court allowed SB 54 to remain in force and would "continue to seek out and fight unjust policies that threaten public safety.”

Opponents of California's sanctuary law, however, predicted the legal battles were far from finished. One woman urged the Board of Supervisors to adopt the resolution, arguing the Supreme Court would ultimately overturn SB 54.

Rosemary Griffin of Granite Bay also said court ruling did not mean the matter was settled.

"We would be breaking federal law" if Placer County abides by the sanctuary law, Griffin said. "I want to see the federal government do what Trump in enabled by the Constitution to do."

At least a dozen California counties and several dozen cities, primarily in Southern California, have adopted resolutions either voicing opposition to S.B. 54 or joining the federal lawsuit seeking to overturn it. The Placer County resolution, put forward by District 4 Supervisor Kirk Uhler, would do both.

The Placer County board has not yet announced whether it will vote on the resolution, and it's unclear if it has the three votes to pass. But critics of the effort fear that even if it hits a dead end in 2018, it could return as an issue next year, when Roseville Vice Mayor Bonnie Gore replaces the more liberal Jack Duran on the board of supervisors.

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