Valley News -

By Alex Groves
Associate Editor 

Temecula Council takes stance on SB 54


Last updated 7/5/2018 at 4:55pm

Shane Gibson

Jesse Fernandez holds a banner showing three people who were killed by undocumented immigrants before the start of a June 26, Temecula city council meeting where an agenda item included a vote on whether or not the city will support the SB54 Sanctuary State Bill.

Dozens of people packed Temecula City Council chambers last week, holding signs, pictures and other props as the council approved a resolution opposing SB 54's limits on cooperation between local and federal immigration authorities.

The council voted 5-0 to approve the resolution, titled, "A resolution of the City Council of the City of Temecula opposing efforts by the State of California to restrict collaboration between local and federal enforcement agencies" after more than 30 people spoke on the issue, June 26.

SB 54, often referred to as the Sanctuary State law, limits the information local and state policing agencies can provide to federal authorities about a person's immigration status and also limits the use of department money or personnel for immigration enforcement, among other things.

The resolution notes that the City of Temecula has met with both the Riverside County Sheriff and District Attorney to express concerns about the law. It further notes that "the City of Temecula does not support any efforts that impede collaboration and information sharing between local and federal law enforcement officials."

City Council members said passing the resolution was about providing a statement on the city's position and making clear what the city and its police department – a contract agency of the Riverside County Sheriff's Department – are already doing.

"What we're voting on tonight, is not going to change anything," City Councilwoman Maryann Edwards said. "Because Riverside County Sheriff Stan Sniff has already said that they comply with federal law, therefore Temecula police officers comply with federal law and have always complied with federal law."

The resolution notes that while a number agencies have chosen to become sanctuary agencies under SB 54 and do not cooperate with federal agencies such as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Sniff as head of the Sheriff's Department has continued to cooperate with ICE while still operating within the bounds of the law.

Mayor Matt Rahn compared the conflict between the state and federal government to a fight between a mom and dad, noting, "We're being asked a very simple question: Who do you love more, mom or dad?"

Rahn said that placing cities and counties in the middle of that argument was "patently unfair" but said Temecula's commitment was to ensuring the safety of residents and to the constitution which says that federal law takes precedence over state law.

"We are upholding that constitution, we are upholding the principles that bind our city and the promise we made to our community with regard to public safety," he said. "That is what we're here to do tonight."

Councilman James "Stew" Stewart also said the issue was one of public safety and upholding the constitution.

"This is not about immigration," Stewart said. "This is about protecting our people, our borders, our state, our country. And like was said over and over again, the State of California does not have the authority over the borders."

Temecula is just the latest city in Southwest Riverside County to pass a resolution in regard to the law. Lake Elsinore in April approved its own resolution decrying it.

Murrieta in a May 22 news release said it continues to stand against SB 54. The news release further goes on to say that the city is "supportive of the civil complaint against the State of California, Governor Brown, and Xavier Becerra."

That lawsuit, filed March 6 by the U.S. Justice Department, seeks to invalidate SB 54. It has been joined by several cities including Huntington Beach, Escondido, Aliso Viejo and Fountain Valley.

Orange and San Diego counties have also joined the lawsuit, but Riverside County has not. This means that cities such as Temecula and Lake Elsinore that contract with the county sheriff's department for their law enforcement services cannot join in, as they have no control over their police agencies.

Alex Groves can be reached at [email protected]


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