April 30, 2018 (El Cajon) -- Bill Wells, El Cajon Mayor and a Republican challenger to Rep. Duncan Hunter in the 50th Congressional district, has appeared on the FOX Business program "Risk and Reward" and FOX News Channel's "FOX and Friends" openly endorsing a growing revolt by Southern California cities against Senate Bill 54. The mmeasure signed by Gov. Jerry Brown (D) last October declared the State of California as a "sanctuary state" for undocumented immigrants. It was passed in response to the Trump administration’s broad crackdown on undocumented immigrants including increased deportations.
Following up his past opposition to California communities declaring themselves “sanctuary cities,” Wells first appeared on FOX TV’s business program “Risk and Reward” earlier this month and later also appeared on “FOX & Friends,” a morning news program on Fox.
Introduced by Sen. Kevin De León and approved by the California Senate, SB 54 nullified California’s previous immigration policy, which stated that if there was reason to believe that a person arrested for a violation of specified controlled substance provisions may not be a citizen of the United States. The arresting agency would then notify the appropriate federal law enforcement agency (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or ICE is in charge of deportation matters).
The newly-passed law not only bars law enforcement from sharing information with federal immigration officials unless a suspect has been convicted of a serious crime, but also bars private employers from allowing immigration officials to access employee records without a court order or subpoena. Third, the enacted measure bars new contracts for immigration detention centers in the state and gives California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D), the power to monitor existing centers. The law also mandates that schools, health facilities, libraries and courthouses serve as "safe zones " where undocumented immigrants can come and go without risk of being detained. SB-54 also expands the state’s 2013 “Trust Act” which specifically prohibits foreigners arrested or suspected of minor offenses from being handed over to federal authorities under detainer requests unless, at the time that the individual becomes eligible for release from custody, certain conditions are met including being convicted or charged with serious crimes.
In early March, the federal government filed a lawsuit in federal court in Sacramento seeking an injunction to halt the enforcement of the three state measures invoked by SB 54. (Ironically, Politico reports that the lawsuit is modeled on a suit filed in 2010 by the Obama administration that claimed that Arizona’s laws cracking down on illegal immigration interfered with immigration policy set by Congress and that U.S. law holds supreme over state law.)
Wells said on Fox that his concern over the new SB 54 law is safety. “If you don’t have dangerous criminals coming back into your cities after they have been in prison, and you have the opportunity, it just doesn’t make any sense,” he said to FOX Business anchor, Deidre Bolton. “A lot of people talk about that this is a racist policy – that there is a racist feel to this – and frankly there is nothing racist about this at all.”
Wells added that about a year ago he started a group called “Mayors for Safe Cities” and that they have stayed true to their original position. “It’s keeping our cities safe,” he said. “Before, if someone was getting out of prison and say they were a MS-13 gang member and had committed some sort of violent crime and they were illegally in the country and eligible to be deported…before they would be released back into our city, the prison would contact the federal government, usually, ICE, and they would work to get that person deported before they ever got back into our community,” he said. “We think that is a reasonable and logical thing to do and we don’t want that to stop.”
“I’m offended that [the State of California] is willing to put my citizens and my police department at risk for dangerous criminals and dangerous crimes,” Wells said.
In a slow-moving political tsunami, 14 California cities have declared their opposition to SB 54. Those cities are Aliso Viejo, Barstow, Beaumont, Buena Park, Costa Mesa, Fountain Valley, Fullerton, Huntington Beach, Los Alamitos, Mission Viejo, Newport Beach, Orange, San Juan Capistrano, Upland, and in San Diego County, Escondido. Loma Linda, Redlands, and Yucaipa are also considering their own anti-SB54 resolutions in the near future.
With the support of chair, Kristin Gaspar, and the support of District 2 Supervisor, Dianne Jacob, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors declared its opposition to SB 54 in a 3-1 vote in a closed session. The measure was supported by Supervisors Gaspar, Dianne Jacob, and Bill Horn and Greg Cox voted against the measure. Supervisor Ron Roberts, who represents an area of central San Diego, did not attend the meeting.
Following the vote, Gaspar said that county will file an amicus brief at the first available opportunity should the case proceed to higher court on appeal.
But San Diego Sheriff Bill Gore has recently told local San Diego media sources that he opposes the Board of Supervisors approving the measure rebuking the enforcement of SB 54. Gore says that it would hamper their law enforcement efforts in the county and discourage illegal immigrants living in San Diego County from reporting crimes.
Gore, told East County Magazine that California’s sanctuary state law already allows ample cooperation between his department and federal authorities regarding immigrants who have committed serious crimes, thanks to changes that Sheriff Gore helped to negotiate directly with Governor Jerry Brown. Those allow his jail staff to turnover immigrants who have been convicted of, or arrested for more than 800 serious crimes.
Sheriff Gore, a Republican, voiced serious concerns about the federal crackdown on immigrants who have not committed serious crimes stating, "This is a terrible example of politics getting in the way of public safety…I don’t know a chief or a sheriff in the state that wants our deputy sheriffs or our officers out there enforcing federal immigration laws. It makes us all less safe.”
He notes that San Diego County has an estimated 250,000 to 300,000 undocumented people. “If you have that many people that see deputy sheriffs as immigration officers, and they are afraid to report crimes, that makes us all less safe.”
Wells insisted that the citizens of El Cajon are very supportive of the continuing opposition to SB 54, “and want to keep the city safe. They understand what we’re doing. They are not falling for this concept that we’re engaging in some kind of racism.” He said, “It is only the organized left that is looking to be offended and not wanting to be reasonable about this. They’re the ones who get so offended that they whip up everybody else. This is what California is going against.”
Wells concluded the interview by saying that, “this is not only about illegal immigration. We have a huge crystal methamphetamine problem. We have a huge drug smuggling problem in general. There is sex trafficking. There are all kinds of problems when you a have a porous border. Frankly, if you stop up the holes in the rest of country and you leave California open – what do you think is going to happen? The drugs, the crime, all of that is going to funnel through California like a sieve.”
Wells came under fire in January when he appeared on FOX News’ “Tucker Carlson” evening opinion program when he blamed liberals for causing the rise in homelessness.
At no time during the interview did Wells, mention his recently announced candidacy against incumbent 50th District Congressman, Duncan Hunter, also a Republican. ECM attempted to reach the Democratic candidates in that race, Josh Butner and Ammar Campa-Najjar, but did not receive a response despite multiple requests.
ECM also attempted to contact Estela De Los Rios, a long-time immigrant rights advocate in El Cajon, for a comment on Well’s appearance supporting the SB 54 revolt movement. But in an e-mail, De Los Rios wrote, “Thank you for contacting me but at this time, for personal and professional reasons, I must refrain. I appreciate you reaching out to me.”
For Santee Mayor John Minto, whose city borders El Cajon, the revolt over SB 54 is not a major issue for his city. While he acknowledges that there has been some private discussion among the members of the Santee city council over the issue, it is not a top priority.
“We don’t have a lot of issues with undocumented aliens in Santee. Some people see them hanging out in front at Lowes or Home Depot parking lots as day laborers. They perceive them as illegal aliens,” Minto said. “We don’t have our own police force, so we don’t have to worry about a police force communicating with federal law enforcement agencies,” he said. Minto added that since the city contracts for law enforcement from the County of San Diego, “this is an issue which the Sheriff has to manage, and it is with his Board of Supervisors. Having said that, though, we want to keep a watch on this because if something comes up that does affect us, we’re going to want to take an action on that.”
But Minto did admit, “We don’t know what that action will be.”
But San Diego-based maverick Ruben Navarrette, a Latino, Harvard University-educated nationally syndicated commentator, thinks both sides of the squabble over SB54 have it wrong.
“You become cynical because no political party is telling the truth. Everybody is pretending to be ‘holier than thou.’ But nobody comes to this party with clean hands,” says Navarrette. “There are people on the right and the left who call themselves journalists but are partisan cheerleaders. And I am neither. I’m not a Republican or Democrat,” he says. “On this issue you can either be stabbed in front by a Republican, or stabbed in the back by a Democrat. Take your pick,” Navarrette said.
He says that so many people on the issue can be divided into three groups. “They can’t define what “sanctuary” means. The reason they can’t? Because you can identify throughout the United States something like 200 jurisdictions – cities and counties and one state – that have a “sanctuary.” There is no one set definition. If you interview and ask the [San Diego] Board of Supervisors who voted in the affirmative or the Mayor of El Cajon what a “sanctuary city” is you would get different answers. They are not clear what it means,” he said.
“Then you have a second group of people who are not clear on what SB 54 allows or prohibits, and the third group, [you have people on the right and the left] who have been sucked into a political vortex who are very much reflecting and being reflective on everybody’s actions,” Navarrette continued.
Navarette was born and raised in rural San Joaquin Valley. After graduating from Harvard University and the John F. Kennedy School of Government in 1990, Navarrette has appeared on National Public Radio, writes for major U.S. newspapers, appears regularly on national cable TV news network discussion programs and also pens a twice-weekly column which appears in 150 newspapers around the country. He was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in commentary by the Washington Post Writers Group in 2012. He also served as a panelist on the PBS’ All-American Presidential Forum in 2007, where he posed questions to Democratic candidates. Navarrette chronicled his rise and success as a Latino journalist in an autobiography entitled, “A Darker Shade of Crimson: The Odyssey of a Harvard Chicano.”
Navarrette is a proponent of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals law, but not so much if an adult has arrived in the United States illegally.
While political partisans are quick to throw salvos of brickbats accusing each other of perceived wrongs, Navarrette lays blame for the chaos on local law enforcement authorities and the federal ICE agency.
Navarette said the core of the problem in the debate over SB54 is about government jurisdictions. “It’s all about the relationship about local cops, the county cops, the state cops, and the federal cops,” he said. He said that when the County of San Diego Sheriff contacts ICE, it is out of courtesy and it is not the department’s legal obligation to do so. “I would like them to do that, and I would like for ICE to know about when somebody gets out of jail so the minute they are out of jail they are there to pick them up,” he said.
“What ICE wants is what most bureaucrats want … for you to do their job for them so they don’t have to work so hard. I’ve never met a government employee at any level who dies from a heart attack from overworking,” Navarrette said, adding, “What those ICE agents want on a federal level is for the local cops to take the person who has been released and hold on to them until the ICE agents can make it down to the jail a week, two weeks, three weeks, whatever it is to pick them up,” he continued. “Even better, if you can drive them over and deposit and deliver them like pizza – can you deliver?”
But he said that this approach puts the local authorities in legal jeopardy when the prisoners must be released within seven days. The dilemma for local authorities then becomes, “By what legal authority do I have to hold on to him?”
“We should all stand and support legal immigration at all costs. But there should be a control on illegal immigration,” Navarrette believes. “The rule of law means something, border sovereignty means something. We ought to be smart on how we police the border.”
If someone is in their 70s or 80s and in the United States illegally, it is not in our best interest to deport these individuals, in Navarrette’s view. “But if you came here in your 20s and you came here last week, and you have no connections and we’ve caught you several times already, or if you’ve committed various crimes, we ought to deport you,” he adds
Navarette concludes, “There is only one good solution, and I would challenge the San Diego Board of Supervisors, the City Council people in Escondido, and the Mayor of El Cajon, to all do the same thing. Show some guts to grow a pair, and go at this problem at its roots: to go after and punish employers. If they want to be really effective, but also really unpopular, they ought to go on and pick on someone their own size, instead of just beating up on people who can’t vote who are here without documents, don’t have the education and don’t have the language, and can’t vote. There’s no sport in that.”
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