More than a dozen people expressed opposition Tuesday in Yreka, and District 2 Supervisor Ed Valenzuela cast an emphatic "no" vote when the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to approve a resolution declaring that the county is not a "sanctuary jurisdiction" with respect to federal immigration law.

Members of the public voiced their displeasure with the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday after the board voted 4-1 to approve a resolution declaring that the county is not a “sanctuary jurisdiction” with respect to federal immigration law.

The board met Tuesday afternoon to discuss the resolution, which cites federal laws that provide that no government entity “may prohibit or restrict its officials from sending to, or receiving from, United States immigration authorities information regarding the citizenship or immigration status of any individual.” 

The resolution declares that the county will comply with those federal laws, that it does not have any intention of hindering enforcement of those laws, and does not “meet any reasonable definition of a ‘sanctuary’ jurisdiction.”

In January, President Donald Trump issued an Executive Order threatening to cut off some federal funding to jurisdictions that refuse to comply with federal immigration laws, often referred to as “sanctuary jurisdictions.”

Before gathering public comment at Tuesday’s meeting, Board Chair Michael Kobseff opened the floor for Siskiyou County Sheriff Jon Lopey to discuss immigration issues in the county.

Lopey indicated to the board that he – like many other sheriffs in the state – has a general policy of not getting involved with the issue “on the front lines,” preferring instead to handle such matters when an inmate at the jail appears to be in the country illegally.

He explained that the county does not have the resources to actively go out and enforce immigration laws, and various state laws limit local law enforcement activities with respect to immigration law enforcement.

Specifically, he called attention to the Transparent Review of Unjust Transfers and Holds Act and the California TRUST Act. The first requires that local law enforcement agencies, when Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents want to speak to a jail inmate suspected of being in the country illegally, must inform the inmate that the discussion is voluntary, and that the inmate can ask to have an attorney present or outright refuse to meet with the ICE agents. The provisions of the act went into effect on Jan. 1.

The TRUST Act, enacted in 2014, requires that local law enforcement agencies allow victims of crime who might be undocumented immigrants to report the crime without fear of being turned over to immigration officials.

Responding to a question from District 4 Supervisor Lisa Nixon, Lopey noted that the county occasionally receives requests from ICE to hold potential undocumented immigrants for 48 hours under a detainer request, but on the advice of state sheriffs associations, local law enforcement agencies typically do not honor such requests if the person has been released by a judge’s order, or if they have already been held for the maximum time allowable by law.

He explained that a detainer request will be honored if ICE has received a warrant from a federal magistrate.

After Lopey spoke, the board opened the floor for public comment. Some in the audience held signs decrying the resolution, and all 13 commenters who spoke before the board expressed their opposition as well.

The speakers touched on a variety of topics, from concerns about the county disrupting local industries dependent on labor provided by undocumented immigrants to the potential impacts to families whose members might be in the country illegally.

Yreka resident Pat von Alten read the inscription on the Statue of Liberty, stating that she believes anti-immigration policies introduced under President Trump “insult the intention of our country,” and that threatening to withhold federal funding from sanctuary jurisdictions is a form of blackmail.

Many speakers asked the board what the intention was behind the resolution, noting that they believe the declaration is unnecessary if the county is already following the letter of the law.

Mount Shasta resident Chris Wroth told the board that he believes the resolution will open up the county to legal challenges, questioning the fiscal sense of making the declaration.

Siskiyou County Democratic Central Committee Vice Chair Rick Greene called the resolution “unnecessary and mean spirited,” noting that he believes the county would not have any threat of having federal funding withheld if the board were not to declare Siskiyou a sanctuary jurisdiction.

Some speakers did urge the board to make the county a sanctuary jurisdiction, but since such a proposal was not an action item for the agenda, other speakers asked instead that the board reject the resolution and carry on with “business as usual.” 

When the board took up the discussion, Nixon noted that she does not see the county going out to “round up” undocumented immigrants with the passage of the resolution, which she characterized as a narrow approach that clarifies that the county will comply with applicable laws where appropriate.

District 2 Supervisor Ed Valenzuela stated that he was surprised that the issue was up for consideration, explaining that he felt the board was blowing the issue out of proportion, given the county’s demographics and the low incidence of crimes by undocumented immigrants.

“I’d rather not get involved,” he said.

Responding to comments from the audience, District 1 Supervisor Brandon Criss said that the decision was not coming from a place of hate or racism, but was driven by a desire to comply with federal law. District 5 Supervisor Ray Haupt added that, given efforts at the state level to make the entire state a sanctuary jurisdiction, he wanted to make it clear that Siskiyou County’s intent is to follow the law.

Kobseff echoed those sentiments, and the board first entertained a motion from Valenzuela to not pass the resolution. It was not seconded, and died on the floor.

Nixon made a motion to pass the resolution, and when it was seconded, one member of the public excoriated the board, expressing her belief that the board was not listening to the constituents in attendance.

The crowd also expressed anger as the votes were cast, with each “yes” vote followed by exclamations of “shame” before Kobseff demanded a return to decorum, quieting the crowd.

The resolution ultimately passed by a vote of 4-1, with Valenzuela issuing an “emphatic” no vote.