The Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 Tuesday to adopt a politically charged resolution stating county policies comply with federal immigration laws and the county is not a sanctuary jurisdiction.
Several people, including a Tuolumne County mother of four young sons on food stamps and other public assistance, spoke out opposing the resolution before the elected board members voted. Others, including county Sheriff Jim Mele, spoke in favor.
Voting for the resolution were supervisors Randy Hanvelt, District 2, Karl Rodefer, District 5, Sherri Brennan, District 1, John L. Gray, District 4, and Evan Royce, District 3.
The board’s move comes against the backdrop of California’s ongoing war of words and legal actions with the Trump administration in the nation’s capital. Back in October, Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 54, the California Values Act, that precludes state and local law enforcement agencies from being compelled to enforce federal immigration laws.
Tuolumne County staff, including Craig Pedro, county administrator, said in a staff report the new law has been controversial and divisive since its inception.
When SB 54 became law Jan. 1, it effectively made California the nation’s first sanctuary state for undocumented immigrants. The federal Justice Department sued California in early March on the issue of providing sanctuaries from immigration enforcement crackdowns, and the lawsuit named Brown and state Attorney General Xavier Becerra.
Sandra Casillas, a Tuolumne County resident who was born in Los Angeles and raised in Sonora since she was 5, told the Board of Supervisors her husband was deported 10 years ago, depriving her family of their primary wage earner.
“I have four kids and my husband’s deportation caused the end of our marriage,” Casillas said. “Because my husband, our main breadwinner, was taken away, we take food stamps and other cash assistance from the state.
“My kids have to live without their father,” Casillas said. Her sons are ages 5, 8, 10, and 12 years old, and they attend school in Jamestown, where she teaches. “I urge you to reconsider your position on this resolution.”
Mercedes Tune, a resident of Sonora for 18 years, and a member of the recently formed Mother Lode Committee of the American Civil Liberties Union for Northern California, said she was concerned Tuolumne County supervisors intended to sign off on the resolution.
“Our county will be involved in many costly lawsuits,” Tune said. “Last year I started carrying my passport because I’m scared I will be stopped.”
Mary Boblet, a resident of Arnold who is also with the Mother Lode Committee of the ACLU for Northern California, said she came to speak in support of the constitutional rights of all Tuolumne County residents.
“This state law codifies the rights of everybody who resides in Tuolumne County,” Boblet said.
After the board voted unanimously to adopt the resolution stating county policies comply with federal immigration laws and the county is not a sanctuary, Boblet said she agreed with Tuolumne County resident Carol Doud, who called the Tuolumne County resolution mean-spirited.
“The Board of Supervisors, their resolution portrays their ignorance of the immigration issue in our county,” Boblet said. “It is mean-spirited, like the other woman said.”
Jim Beaty, a Columbia resident, spoke up in favor of the board’s move.
“I strongly support you and your position on this ordinance,” Beaty told the board before they voted. “Illegals are criminals and they are a threat to public safety.”
Mele, the county’s top sworn law officer the past dozen years, told the Board of Supervisors he believes SB 54 “is a horrible law.”
Here in Tuolumne County over the past 18 months, sheriff’s staff have done five bookings of people here illegally, and one of the individuals was booked three times, Mele said. The sheriff said that number is 1/500th of 1 percent of all his agency’s bookings at the county jail.
Mele praised the wording of the resolution stating county policies comply with federal immigration laws and the county is not a sanctuary jurisdiction, and he thanked County Counsel Sarah Carrillo for her work on it.
Statewide, several cities and counties in Southern California have pushed back against the state government’s support for sanctuary status and its battle against the Trump administration.
Cities and counties that have opposed or considered opposing the state’s sanctuary law with city ordinances and, in some cases, lawsuits, include Dana Point, Los Alamitos, Laguna Niguel, San Juan Capistrano, Aliso Viejo, Mission Viejo, Yorba Linda, Newport Beach, Westminster, Huntington Beach, Orange and Fountain Valley, all in Orange County; Escondido in San Diego County; Beaumont in Riverside County; Yucaipa and Hesperia in San Bernardino County; Ripon in San Joaquin County; the Orange County Board of Supervisors and the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.
Earlier this month, a federal judge in Los Angeles ruled the federal Justice Department cannot make local police departments cooperation with immigration agents a requirement to receive federal funding, the Los Angeles Times and other news agencies reported.
The ruling was described as a victory for local governments opposed to the Trump administration’s stance on immigration and enforcement efforts.
U.S. District Judge Manuel Real in L.A. issued a permanent, national injunction against federal funding rules, another step in the ongoing legal battle with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, President Donald J. Trump and the White House.
Contact Guy McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.