Tuesday, April 17, 2018 | 8:31 a.m.
LOS ALAMITOS, Calif. — The conservative backlash against California's so-called sanctuary law has taken the form of lawsuits and public tongue-lashings.
But one tiny city in Orange County took the step of declaring itself legally exempt.
After a peaceful but noisy confrontation Monday by demonstrators on both sides of the issue, the Los Alamitos City Council began hearing hours of public comment on whether it should enact an ordinance exempting the city on grounds that the state's policy is unconstitutional. The council approved the ordinance late Monday night in a 4-1 vote.
The city of 12,000 argues that the federal government — not the state — has authority over immigration.
It's the same argument made by the Trump administration, which sued California last month. On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors in San Diego County — a region of more than 3 million people that borders Mexico — will meet to consider joining that suit.
At least nine other Orange County cities and the Board of Supervisors have passed anti-sanctuary resolutions or voted to join the lawsuit. Los Alamitos is the only city that has passed an ordinance.
In Los Alamitos, tensions were high as hundreds protested outside City Hall. About two dozen police officers from the city and other nearby departments kept minor skirmishes from escalating as people from both sides shouted and sometimes went nose-to-nose with each other, The Orange County Register reported.
The screaming could be heard inside the chamber during the meeting.
Mayor Troy Edgar, a council member who voted for the ordinance, said he has spoken with a local Immigration and Customs Enforcement representative and told him he would welcome the agency.
"We would love to host you," he said.
Councilman Mark Chirco, an attorney, was the only vote against the ordinance. He called it divisive, ineffective and unnecessary, The Orange County Register reported .
The costs associated in defending any lawsuits the ordinance could invite "would bankrupt our city," Chirco said.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California has told the Los Alamitos council that it will file a lawsuit over the measure.
California's all-Democratic leadership has positioned the state as the national leader in battling the Trump administration, especially on immigration issues. Government leaders at the state level and in big cities have condemned mass raids and deportation efforts, the president's call for a border-spanning wall with Mexico and the attorney general's "zero tolerance" order to prosecute people caught illegally entering the United States for the first time.
Gov. Jerry Brown elicited rare praise from Trump last week for pledging to contribute 400 troops to the National Guard's deployment to the Mexican border. But Brown was clear that California troops will help go after drugs, guns and criminal gangs, but not immigrants.
In recent years, California Republicans have taken a less strident approach to immigration in a state where 1 in 4 people are foreign-born. But the Trump administration lawsuit has energized many in a party that has been rendered nearly irrelevant at the state level, where Democrats control every key office.
"When the attorney general of the United States decides to take a firm position against it, I think that gave a signal to a lot of us that, 'Hey, California is on the wrong side of this thing,'" said Fred Whitaker, chairman of the Republican Party in Orange County. He also is a councilman in the city of Orange who proposed a local resolution on the issue that passed last week.