A group of Stanislaus County citizens will not rest until the Board of Supervisors sides with the federal government against California's "Sanctuary State" Bill, they say.
Senate Bill 54 is a so-called sanctuary policy signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in October 2017 which legalizes and standardizes statewide non-cooperation policies between local law enforcement agencies and federal immigration authorities, created in response to President Donald Trump's repeated promises to ramp up immigration enforcement throughout the country.
Now, the state is being sued by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and many cities throughout the state are following suit by publicly declaring their condemnation of the law.
Locally, the Ceres City Council will consider such a resolution at a June meeting and both Ripon and Waterford have recently approved their own. The cities of Los Alamitos, Escondido, Huntington Beach, Orange, San Diego and others are also included in the growing movement, and the local advocacy group Stanislaus Concerned Citizens for State of Jefferson attended Board of Supervisors meetings throughout April in an effort to see Stanislaus County pass a resolution of its own.
"Article I, Section 8, Clause 4 of our constitution and the rulings of the Supreme Court give the power to regulate immigration to the federal government, not the states. Therefore, SB 54 is unconstitutional," SCCSJ member Allen Buhler told the Board at their April 24 meeting. "We the people of Modesto wish to be lawful. Please help us be lawful by signing the resolution and joining the lawsuit by the federal government against the state of California."
Buhler said that he brought the resolution forward at the April 17 Board meeting asking for it to be placed on the agenda, and was disappointed when it was not. In addition to their most recent request, he and others from SCCJC also advocate for the creation of a new state from Northern California - the State of Jefferson - meant to provide better political representation for the state's rural, more conservative communities.
"I understand we already comply with the law, but what a powerful message we would send to the governor, our legislature, our children and the public at large if you would sign the resolution and we joined the lawsuit," he said.
Many who oppose SB 54 are in favor of immigration, like SCCSJ member Becky Pelczynski who spoke at the April 24 meeting, but dislike the law's provisions which shield illegal immigrants from federal immigration officials even if they have been arrested for crimes.
"I'm not against immigration, I'm a product of immigration," Pelczynski said. "(SB 54) is not lawful and it hurts all of us who choose to lead a life and raise families that will be law-abiding."
According to the Federation for American Immigration Reform, 1.9 million of the 2.1 million illegal immigrants living in the Unites States are removable due to criminal activity. Opponents of SB 54 argue that prohibiting state and local law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration officials allow such criminals to continue their activity undetected.
After the resolution was brought forward to the Board of Supervisors on April 17, County Chief Executive Officer Jody Hayes, Board Chairman Jim DeMartini and Sheriff Adam Christiansen met with local stakeholders, including SCCJC Coordinator Marie Robertson, where it was decided that the board is "not going to do it at this time," according to DeMartini.
On April 24, Robertson argued to supervisors that more members of the community should have been involved with the decision-making process.
"Why is it a CEO and a sheriff that gets to make the choice...we should have the opposition here so we can debate this out. We're a republic and we have a right for both sides to decide this - not a CEO and not a sheriff," she said. "This matter at hand was just a resolution to say that you stand with President Trump, that you stand with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and that you would stand to uphold the federal law that is before us."
Hayes responded to the remarks from SCCJC by saying he understands that SB 54 is a "complicated issue," and invited anyone to phone or visit his office to discuss the topic if they wish.
The resolution was once again left off of the Board of Supervisors meeting agenda on May 1, and Robertson said that in her talks with the County, it seems as if they "don't plan on budging at all."
But, she and her group refuse to quit their efforts, as she reminded them last week.
"We have a right to have this brought to the public and we will be back to be sure it is," Robertson said.