Long before Donald Trump was elected president, about ten years ago in fact, some elected leaders in Escondido thought it would be good idea to try and push undocumented immigrants out of the city.
The City Council adopted an ordinance that would prohibit landlords from renting to undocumented immigrants. Fortunately, a coalition of civil rights groups, including the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties, filed a lawsuit against the city and soon the rental ban was abandoned.
It wasn’t the last time the ACLU sued Escondido and now the city appears to have an ally in the White House who has taken on the same hateful rhetoric Escondido leaders used to pass the rental ban.
President Trump has threatened to withdraw federal funding from jurisdictions that refuse cooperate with his mass deportation agenda. His promise to deport millions of immigrants relies heavily on local police departments acting as a force multiplier.
But the ACLU is ready to fight again against cities such as Escondido when necessary and the federal government when it attempts to violate or circumvent people’s civil rights.
The ACLU has been fighting to preserve American freedoms and values for nearly a century. Its work is sustained by more than 500,000 members and supporters nationwide. It has offices in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and Washington.
In California, the ACLU has offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego. The San Diego affiliate first opened in 1933 and began working to secure Imperial Valley farmworkers’ right to strike and assemble in 1934.
In recent months, the ACLU sued the Trump administration when it tried through an executive order to ban people from several Muslim-majority countries from entering the country. That order was ultimately blocked by a federal appeals court.
When the travel ban first took effect on Jan. 28, the ACLU deployed attorneys and observers to airports, including San Diego’s Lindbergh Field, to make sure everyone’s rights were protected.
The ACLU and community partners also successfully lobbied the City of San Diego to join a legal brief in support of blocking Trump’s Muslim ban.
More recently, the ACLU advocated the passage of several bills in the state Legislature to protect undocumented immigrants from Trump’s deportation efforts, including SB 54 or “The California Values Act.” If passed into law, SB 54 would prohibit local law enforcement agencies, such as the Escondido Police Department, from using their resources to enforce federal immigration laws.
In 2010, the Escondido Police Department entered into an agreement with the U.S. Immigration Enforcement allowing federal agents to operate out of EPD headquarters. In its first two years, the joint operation led to the arrest of more than 800 people, according to the Escondido police chief at the time. But ICE and police officials have yet to release detailed information about who was deported and why.
Using local police to enforce federal immigration laws is not a good policy here or anywhere. It alienates and marginalizes people that local police should protect, making them afraid to report crimes for fear of being deported.
Just last month, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said that reports of sexual assault dropped 25 percent among the city’s Latino community since the start of 2017, as compared to the same period in 2016. He also said that reports of domestic violence fell by 10 percent. According to the Los Angeles Times, Beck said there was a “strong correlation” between the drop in reports and the panic caused by Trump’s anti-immigrant comments.
On April 3, the ACLU organized a march and rally of about 400 people in front of the state Capitol to support SB 54 and other bills. Senate Leader Kevin De Leon (D-Los Angeles), who authored the bill, and other lawmakers spoke to the crowd. Hours later, the Senate passed the California Values Act on a 27-12 vote. The Senate also passed, SB 6, that would provide $12 million to pay lawyers for immigrants facing deportation; and another measure, SB 31, that would bar state officials from sharing data if the federal government creates a Muslim registry.
But the fight is far from over. Those bills must now pass the Assembly and must be signed by Gov. Jerry Brown.
The ACLU is fighting for vulnerable Californians. We invite you to join the fight to protect the civil rights and freedoms of all who live in our region. Join us and tell the California Legislature and Governor Brown to pass these bills.
For more information,
Edward Sifuentes is the Senior Communications Strategist for the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties.