Crime & Justice

ACLU sues Los Alamitos over anti-sanctuary ordinance

Residents from Los Alamitos show support for immigrants during a news conference announcing a lawsuit against the city for its ordinance exempting the city from the California Values Act, also known as the state sanctuary law.
Residents from Los Alamitos show support for immigrants during a news conference announcing a lawsuit against the city for its ordinance exempting the city from the California Values Act, also known as the state sanctuary law.
Jill Replogle

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The ACLU and other groups filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the Orange County city of Los Alamitos for its new ordinance barring the city from enforcing a state law that limits local cooperation with immigration enforcement. 

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of several Los Alamitos residents and the group Los Alamitos Community United, claims the city’s ordinance violates the California Constitution and state law.

“The Los Alamitos City Council cannot pick and choose which state laws it follows," ACLU attorney Sameer Ahmed said at a news conference in front of the city council chambers, before delivering the lawsuit to city officials. 

Just days earlier, several hundred pro-immigrant protesters had stood in the same spot in hopes of convincing the city council to reverse its earlier vote to pass the ordinance.  Those protesters were countered by a group that turned out to support the city's defiance of the state law. 

In the end, the council confirmed the ordinance in a 4-1 vote. 

The move by Los Alamitos  has sparked a wave of measures  in other cities in Orange County and elsewhere in the state opposing the state’s California Values Act, also known as the sanctuary law. The boards of supervisors in Orange and San Diego counties have both voted to join the U.S. Department of Justice’s lawsuit against California over the law.

But Los Alamitos appears to be the only city in California to pass a law exempting itself from complying with the California Values Act. The city of Orange passed a similar resolution, which is generally weaker than an ordinance.  

Rev. Sam Pullen of the Community Congregational United Church of Christ of Los Alamitos said residents had a moral obligation to oppose the city’s ordinance. 

“It not only violates the California Values Act, it also violates a deeper moral law that we are called to follow, which is to love and welcome our immigrant neighbors,” he said. 

Los Alamitos City Councilmember Warren Kusumoto, who introduced the anti-sanctuary ordinance, said in an email that he couldn’t comment on pending litigation. The mayor and city manager also declined to comment. 

Councilwoman Shelley Hasselbrink said Monday, before casting her vote in favor of the ordinance, "I’m taking a stance on this because of my oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States.” She and other opponents of the California Values Act say it violates the U.S. Constitution. 

Read the lawsuit, annotated by KPCC reporters Jill Replogle and Leslie Berestein-Rojas: