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Santa Monica Joins Lawsuit Challenging President on Immigration
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By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

March 24, 2017 -- The City of Santa Monica signed onto an amicus brief this week supporting the County of Santa Clara’s effort to get a nationwide injunction against the president’s executive order for federal funds to be withheld from “sanctuary jurisdictions” for illegal immigrants.

Thirty-three other local governments signed the brief.

“All agree the executive order is unlawful and unconstitutional on its face,” a City of Santa Monica statement said.

It continues, “Contrary to the executive order’s directives, [the signers] agree that local authorities are best positioned to assess local enforcement priorities, weigh the costs and benefits of different options and make judgments about what will best promote the safety of their communities."

It is unclear which jurisdictions would be considered sanctuary cities under President Trump's January 25 executive order. While nearly 300 jurisdictions -- including states, counties and cities -- limit their involvement in enforcing federal immigration law, the term is often loosely adopted.

Under Trump's order, the secretary of Homeland Security would designate "sanctuary jurisdictions" depending on whether local officials can share people's immigration status with the federal government.

Last summer, the Justice Department under Obama ruled that federal law requires local law enforcement agencies to at least share that information.

Local leaders have not declared Santa Monica a “sanctuary city,” which does not have any specific legal definition. But they have been vocal in their opposition to Trump on immigration issues.

The City Council passed a resolution earlier this month challenging the White House on multiple grounds, including on immigration (“Santa Monica Confronts President in Council Resolution, Mayor’s Letter,” March 6, 2017).

Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks has said her department does not enforce immigration laws (“Santa Monica to Continue Non-Enforcement of Immigration Laws, Police Chief Says,” December 2, 2016).

And last week the Santa Monica Police Department ended its operational agreement with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) (“Santa Monica Police Ends Agreement with Federal Immigration Authorities,” March 17, 2017).

In a related issue, the council will consider a resolution Tuesday proposed by Councilmembers Tony Vazquez and Sue Himmelrich to support California U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris' bill that would guarantee legal counsel for those detained while trying to enter the country.


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