Salinas to Sue Over Sanctuary Cities Executive Order

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News Date: 
March 8, 2017
Salinas City Attorney Chris Callihan

On Tuesday, March 7, the Salinas City Council voted to take action in federal court against President Trump and the executive branch to prevent their implementation of the executive order against sanctuary cities.

The vote, taken in closed session to direct the City Attorney to initiate legal action, was unanimous.

At a press conference following the vote, City Attorney Chris Callihan explained the reason for the suit:

"It is my opinion that any attempt by the federal government to withhold federal funding from Salinas should it become a sanctuary city would be an unconstitutional act. Certainly, the federal government would disagree with that, which would likely result in the City losing federal funding while the City fought to protect itself and its residents, who have come to rely on that funding for essential programs, including programs for street and road repairs and firefighter positions. If the funding is lost, those programs are lost and all of Salinas's residents end up suffering.

"Some Salinans and City Council members supported the idea of declaring Salinas a sanctuary city. I understand their position, but legally it would have no real effect in terms of protecting anyone in the community from the enforcement of federal immigration law by the federal government. The resolution would not prevent ICE, for example, from coming into Salinas and enforcing federal immigration law.

"The City Council has unanimously directed me to take action in federal court against the President and against the executive branch to prevent their implementation of the executive order against sanctuary cities.

"That is why we are taking direct action to protect the City of Salinas and all other cities from the unconstitutional acts of the President and his executive branch.

"Over the next few weeks we will prepare the appropriate papers and have them filed in the United States Federal District Court in San Jose. Salinas will lead the region on this issue and will stand up for all its residents. Salinas will join other cities and counties taking a stand on behalf of their residents, including San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, and Santa Clara County.

"This will be a significant undertaking for the City of Salinas and for my office, but it is one that we think is critical for the safety and the security of Salinas and all its residents."

Mayor Joe Gunter also spoke at the press conference. Full remarks as prepared for delivery by the Mayor and the City Attorney follow.

Remarks by City Attorney Chris Callihan

Thank you all for coming. To my knowledge, this is the first time the Salinas City Attorney's Office has called a press conference, so that should give you some indication that this is a matter of some significance for the City.

Before I get started, I want to be sure to acknowledge Mayor Joe Gunter and City Manager Ray Corpuz. Everything we do at the City of Salinas is a team effort and I want to be sure to thank everyone their support. We have a solid team of leaders at the City of Salinas and today is a major expression of that leadership.

For several weeks now we have been discussing and debating the issue of sanctuary cities and the City of Salinas's status as a sanctuary city. Most recently, the City Council considered the issue and heard from members of the public concerning the issue. 

As you all know, the City Council-by a 4 to 3 vote-decided not to approve a Resolution that would have made Salinas a sanctuary city. That decision was not made lightly and occurred in the context of a concern over the risk that the City would lose federal funding, which amounts to an average of approximately $10 million per year. While we ultimately do not know what the federal government will do in response to sanctuary cities, the rhetoric has been clear and the executive order is clear.

As I indicated during the City Council's discussion and consideration of the proposed Resolution, it is my opinion that any attempt by the federal government to withhold federal funding from Salinas should it become a sanctuary city would be an unconstitutional act. Certainly, the federal government would disagree with that, which would likely result in the City losing federal funding while the City fought to protect itself and its residents, who have come to rely on that funding for essential programs, including programs for street and road repairs and firefighter positions. If the funding is lost, those programs are lost and all of Salinas's residents end up suffering.

Some Salinans and City Council members supported the idea of declaring Salinas a sanctuary city. I understand their position, but legally it would have no real effect in terms of protecting anyone in the community from the enforcement of federal immigration law by the federal government. The resolution would not prevent ICE, for example, from coming into Salinas and enforcing federal immigration law.

The City Council has directed me to take more substantial and meaningful action to protect not only the City's federal funding, but to protect all the City's residents.

The City Council has unanimously directed me to take action in federal court against the President and against the executive branch to prevent their implementation of the executive order against sanctuary cities.

That is why we are taking direct action to protect the City of Salinas and all other cities from the unconstitutional acts of the President and his executive branch.

Over the next few weeks we will prepare the appropriate papers and have them filed in the United States Federal District Court in San Jose. Salinas will lead the region on this issue and will stand up for all its residents. Salinas will join other cities and counties taking a stand on behalf of their residents, including San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, and Santa Clara County.

This will be a significant undertaking for the City of Salinas and for my office, but it is one that we think is critical for the safety and the security of Salinas and all its residents. 

I am proud to be standing alongside the City Council and the City Manager as we take this next step for the City of Salinas.

Before we open up for questions, I will turn over the podium to Mayor Gunter who has a few things to say on behalf of the City Council.

Remarks by Mayor Joe Gunter

Thank you everyone for attending.

As the City Attorney has said, the City Council has directed him and his team to take action in federal court against the President and his executive branch to protect the City of Salinas and its residents and its families.

The City Council did not take this issue lightly. There was a lot of discussion about the matter and the significance of this act.

And there has been a lot of discussion across the community about sanctuary cities. I understand and respect the opinion and depth of feeling of those who believe Salinas should declare sanctuary city status. And I share the desire to show our hard-working, law-abiding immigrant population that we support and value them. But in my opinion, approving a resolution declaring the City a sanctuary city would have only symbolic value... It would do nothing to protect the City's residents or keep families together.

Directing the City Attorney to take legal action to protect the City's right to be a sanctuary city and not risk its federal funding is more than symbolic. And it is supported by all of the City Council members. Councilmember McShane was unable to participate in the discussion because he is off on his honeymoon, but I know he was in support of this act and is standing by his colleagues on the City Council in taking it. 

By this act, the City is seeking to protect not only the tens of millions of dollars in federal funding the City receives each year, but also to protect all its residents, regardless of their immigration status.

Salinas, like most of Monterey County, is dependent on the agricultural economy. That economy is supported by immigrant workers who may or may not be in this country legally. The City should not get into the middle of that discussion, since that is a matter for the federal government to handle. If those hard-working families are ripped apart and deported, not only will they suffer, but the local economy will suffer - all of us will suffer. 

Three times now the City Council has requested the federal government take action to implement comprehensive immigration reform. We continue to believe that a hard look at this problem needs to be taken and long-term solutions to the immigration problem need to be determined. Anything short of that will not solve the problem.

The City of Salinas is and has been the regional leader in Monterey County and this is another example of the City of Salinas and the City Council stepping up and showing the City's residents, and all of Monterey County, that Salinas will take action and will lead... lead to protect Salinas' residents and Salinas' families and Salinas' funding and the economy that supports all of Monterey County.

Thank you.