The Coast News Group
On June 26, the Vista City Council voted 3-1 to support a Trump administration petition to the U.S. Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the California Values Act (SB 54). Courtesy photo
CommunityVistaVista Featured

Status quo on council support for sanctuary state lawsuit

Few issues in California have garnered more controversy than the state’s “sanctuary” law, an issue which came to a head at the Sept. 11 Vista City Council meeting.

At that meeting, City Council member and mayoral candidate Joe Green proposed a measure to repeal the council’s June 26 3-1 vote to join on as an amicus curiae — or friend of the court — co-signatory for a Trump administration petition to the U.S. Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the California Values Act (SB 54). Better known as the “sanctuary law” bill, the legislation calls for law enforcement officials in cities throughout California to — in some cases and within outlined limits — defy the currently existing federal immigration enforcement policy and halt deportations of undocumented immigrations.

Though 30 members of the public came out in support of Green’s measure and only two came out against — with two others having positions which did not clearly fall on either side of the debate — the measure failed to get any “seconds” in the motion to vote on the measure. And thus, the measure died before it could even get a vote. Green told The Coast News he is disappointed, though not shocked, that it unfolded this way.

“I didn’t necessarily expect a second but, I did expect some discussion and hoped for a second,” he said. “Since the previous vote was taken under the premise that the state of California was violating the Constitution and this was jeopardizing our cities safety, I felt I provided clear information and testimony that disproved both of those notions. I feel that none of my colleagues seconded my motion because they are concerned with how their party may view that vote. I’ve chosen to be a no party preference candidate as I have no loyalties to any party. I work for Vista, and in my opinion, my colleagues put politics over people.”

The original June 26 vote was spearheaded by Councilman John Franklin, a key figure within the San Diego County Republican Party. Franklin owns the political consultancy firm Pacific Political, Inc., works as the Finance Director for Republican Diane Harkey’s congressional campaign for California’s 49th Congressional District and works in a similar capacity for the re-election campaign for Escondido Mayor Sam Abed.

Green criticized Franklin by name to The Coast News for the role he says he has played in the whole brouhaha which has ensued in Vista over the City Council’s reaction to SB 54.

“I don’t like the divisiveness this has caused in my community,” he said. “I feel that Councilman Franklin bringing this forward in June was a political move to help solidify his position in the San Diego Republican Party. Our mayor and deputy mayor (John Aguilera) are also San Diego Republican Party-endorsed candidates and going against Councilmember Franklin may have jeopardized their endorsements. They are all up for re-election in November. My hope is that in November, regardless of the results, we can set aside all partisanship and focus on working on the issues that will truly benefit our city.”

Franklin did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

But if Green is the yin as it pertains to this issue, then Mayor Judy Ritter could be described as his yang, because she told The Coast News that she believes Green’s decision was equally a political decision. It is election season, after all, and Ritter, too, is a candidate for the Nov. 6 mayoral race, running for re-election.

“Joe Green knew exactly what he was doing and where the decision stood when he brought SB 54 back a second time,” she said. “He knew how the council had previously voted, he knew it was a divisive issue and yet he alone brought it back again. The issue had been discussed by the council at our previous meeting, we listened to many of the same speakers the second time, (and that’s why) no one chose to second Joe Green’s motion to withdraw and no [else] one chose to discuss it a second time.”

In a July ruling, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California Judge John Mendez shot down the Trump administration’s proposal for an injunction to halt SB 54 from going into effect. And in August, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit shot down the Trump administration’s proposal to deny federal funding to cities or states which have sanctuary laws or policies on the books.

There are multiple amicus briefs floating around, Green explained in introducing the measure, saying that he believes the City Council should not pledge support of any sort of amicus brief until it has a chance to review what the legal arguments entail. All of the other members of the Vista City Council did not respond to requests for comment addressing a question about voting to sign onto an amicus brief before having a chance to read it over and review it.

Until the June 26 Vista City Council vote, Green was a member of the Republican Party, but he has since left the party and is running as in independent.

“As elected city officials, I feel it is our responsibility to bring our community together and avoid dividing it whenever possible,” Green said in his opening remarks. “This SB 54 debate, or sanctuary city debate, does nothing for our citizens and does nothing but divide us.”

The Vista City Council convenes again at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 25 in City Hall Chambers.