Today, immigrant and civil rights advocates will present a dozen California Sheriffs with new Public Records Act requests probing the extent of their involvement with far-right forces seeking to weaken SB 54. The high-profile bill would ensure state and local resources aren’t used to help the Administration deport millions of people.
The PRA requests come amid nationwide fallout over the President’s Friday night pardon of infamous Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, convicted of defying court orders to stop racially profiling Latinos. The requests, directed to the Executive Officers of the CA State Sheriffs' Association (CSSA) and several members of the Association who participated in a controversial meeting with AG Jeff Sessions prior to his confirmation, seek any correspondence on SB 54 which the Sheriffs have had with anti-immigrant and extremist organizations, the Trump administration, and others.
With major papers editorializing that “Institutional racism is clearly Trump's goal,” the pardon heightens the urgency of revelations last week that CSSA President Bill Brown corresponded about a long-shot ballot initiative to undermine SB 54 with far-right leader Ted Hilton, who has in the past stated that legalization of undocumented immigrants would “make the U.S. more like a Third World country.”
No anti-immigrant initiative has made it on California’s ballot in nearly 20 years, and most California voters strongly support state and local action to protect immigrant rights. For advocates, the Sheriffs' collusion with far-right forces behind closed doors underscores the need for strong state action.
“Sheriff Brown’s disgraceful nod to far-right nativism makes it clear Governor Brown must champion SB 54 in the strongest possible form," said Saira Hussain, a staff attorney at Advancing Justice - Asian Law Caucus. "If we do not take powerful state action to uphold due process, then we will embolden the Arpaio-like tendencies that many California Sheriffs are chomping at the bit to unleash.”
Sheriffs receiving the PRAs include: Sheriff Brown, Santa Barbara; Sheriff Moore, San Joaquin; Sheriff Livingston, Contra Costa; Sheriff Robinson, Kings; Sheriff Growdon, Lassen; Sheriff Honea, Butte; Sheriff Youngblood, Kern; Sheriff McMahon, San Bernardino, Sheriff Dean, Ventura; Sheriff Jones, Sacramento, and Sheriff Hutchens, Orange County.
A public records request is also pending with the Alameda County Sheriff in the wake of the department’s retweet of White Supremacist Richard Spencer earlier this month, cited as part of a pattern of racist attitudes and practices at the department. Los Angeles County Sheriff McDonnell’s failure to respond to another records request spurred a lawsuit, while a records request earlier this year showed that Sacramento Sheriff Scott Jones colluded with ICE to attack SB 54 despite his public claims to the contrary.