Labor Groups Demand Records on LA Sheriff’s Fight Against Sanctuary Bill

LOS ANGELES (CN) – Two labor groups have sued Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell seeking a court order to release communications between his department and the Trump administration about California’s sanctuary bill.

The Service Employees International Union United Service Workers West, or USWW, and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, or NDLON, sued McDonnell in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Aug. 9. The complaint was made available Thursday.

“This dispute arises from the failure of the County of Los Angeles and its sheriff’s department to provide public records concerning its role in federal immigration enforcement,” the groups’ 9-page petition states.

They want the court to order McDonnell to respond to its records request under the California Public Records Act.

Advocates for the sanctuary bill say it will protect immigrants. But McDonnell has said it could endanger the public and protect violent felons, and that a refusal to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents could lead to more collateral arrests.

“They’re still going to do their job,” McDonnell said of ICE, according to KABC. “Although they can’t get in the jail they’re going to look for whoever their target is in the community. When they do that they’re going to make collateral arrests of people who are not their target but are undocumented.”

The labor groups want information about the sheriff’s communications with the White House and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions about California Senate Bill 54. Introduced by state Sen. Kevin de León of Los Angeles, the bill proposes protections that would bar state and local law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration agents.

In a statement, National Day Laborer Organizing Network said janitors and day laborers handed a copy of the lawsuit to McDonnell during a Wednesday evening panel discussion titled “What Does Trump Mean for Immigrant LA?” where the sheriff came under fire for his position on the bill.

In a prepared statement, Alejandra Valles of SEIU USWW accused McDonnell of “trying to bully lawmakers in Sacramento into watering down a necessary and important legislation to block President Trump’s unjust deportation agenda.”

“Our lawsuit asks a simple question: ‘Why?’” Valles said.

The groups made the records request on March 20, 2017. After months of delays, the sheriff’s department responded with 134 pages of records but none “reflected any communications with ICE or any other federal officials regarding immigration enforcement or SB 54,” according to the lawsuit.

“The requested records are critical to petitioners’ mission of meaningfully participating in and contributing their perspectives and insights to the public policy debate regarding local law enforcement’s role in immigration proceedings generally and SB 54 specifically. Petitioners are uniquely positioned to contribute meaningfully to this debate from the perspective of advocating, for low-wage immigrants, an extremely vulnerable population, and of ensuring that as a nation we respect our own constitutional principles while engaged in immigration enforcement,” the groups say in the petition.

According to the petition, a similar records request made to Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones – also a foe of SB 54 – revealed Jones had asked then-acting ICE director Thomas Homan for help fighting against the bill “weeks before the two hosted a town hall meeting on immigration enforcement that drew hundreds of people and erupted in protests.”

The groups are represented by attorneys Matthew Struger and Colleen Flynn.  They seek an order compelling McDonnell’s department to hand over the records.

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