Leaders of the anti-sanctuary state movement in California met with President Donald Trump for a roundtable discussion Wednesday that included repeated references to cases of previously deported illegal immigrants killing Californians with Central Coast ties.
Conservative mayors, sheriffs and other local and state officials who have taken stances against California’s SB 54 joined Trump in the White House Cabinet Room, where they heaped praise on one another, as well as asking for help. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who previously represented parts of San Luis Obispo County, also took part in the roundtable discussion.
SB 54, which took effect on Jan. 1, prohibits state and local law enforcement, in most cases, from cooperating with federal immigration authorities and inquiring about an individual’s immigration status. The Trump Administration is suing California over the law, and a number of California jurisdictions have joined the suit or taken other measures opposing SB 54.
“We all remember the tragic case of Marilyn Pharis who was murdered by an illegal immigrant who had been arrested six times prior to breaking into Marilyn’s home, raping her and savagely beating her to death with a hammer,” Trump said in his initial remarks.
Pharis, a 64-year-old Air Force veteran and Vandenberg employee, was attacked while sleeping in her Santa Maria home in July 2015. Eight days later, Pharis died in the hospital.
The attacker, Victor Martinez-Ramirez, was an illegal immigrant from Mexico who had been arrested six times in the previous 15 months, according to the Santa Maria Police Department. Martinez-Ramirez was released from Santa Barbara County Jail 96 hours before he attacked Pharis.
Pharis’s killing occurred just days after Cal Poly grad Kate Steinle was shot and killed in San Francisco by a previously deported illegal immigrant who had also been recently let out of jail. The defendant was ultimately acquitted of murder in the case after he claimed the shooting was accidental.
Multiple participants in the roundtable discussion made references to the Steinle case.
“For me and my constituents — and those are Democrats and Republicans and independents, alike, because I get emails from all of them — they don’t want to see another Kate Steinle,” Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez said. “That’s what I hear every single week.”
Several participants in the discussion said SB 54 is causing a breakdown in communication between law enforcement agencies, and officers are struggling to balance state and federal law.
Multiple local officials also said their jurisdictions are now facing lawsuits from the American Civil Liberties Union over stances they have taken against California’s sanctuary state law. One of the jurisdictions faced with a lawsuit is the city of Los Alamitos, which became the first municipality to adopt an ordinance opposing SB 54.
Los Alamitos Mayor Troy Edgar, who is currently running a GoFundMepage to help raise money for the city’s legal defense, asked Trump if the Orange County city can receive financial help from the federal government.
Lassen County District Attorney Stacey Montgomery said DA’s offices across the state have received record requests from the ACLU asking what policies they have implemented to comply with SB 54. Montgomery said her office adopted no policies to comply with the sanctuary state law.
Montgomery also criticized California’s legalization of marijuana, saying Lassen County has a large problem of illegal immigrants working for drug cartels who are growing marijuana in public forests.
“These people are coming into our forests, they’re endangering our citizens,” Montgomery said. “They are armed. They’re setting up camps, and they’re growing mass amounts of marijuana on our public lands. They are killing wildlife.”
Participants in the roundtable represented a variety of conservative-leaning jurisdictions in California, both rural and urban.
San Diego County Supervisor Kristin Gaspar said San Diego has become a great place to be a criminal.
“You can either be across the border in a matter of minutes and shielded by Mexico, or you have the option of simply staying put, shielded by Governor Moonbeam,” Gaspar said, referencing Gov. Jerry Brown.
Trump joined the conservative California leaders in taking shots at Brown, encouraging the Democratic governor to challenge him for the presidency after leaving office.
“Somebody said he’s going to run for president. I said, ‘Please. Please run,’ ” Trump said.