Councilman David Alvarez. Photo by Chris Stone
Councilman David Alvarez. Photo by Chris Stone

Updated at 5:01 p.m. Feb. 14, 2017

The San Diego City Council on Tuesday voted 8-1 to file a brief in support of the state of Washington in its lawsuit over President Donald Trump’s so-called “travel ban” executive order.

Councilman Scott Sherman. Photo by Chris Stone
Councilman Scott Sherman. Photo by Chris Stone

Republican Councilman Scott Sherman cast the dissenting vote in closed session.

Democratic Councilman Alvarez issued a statement regarding his support for council participation in the lawsuit challenging Presidential Executive Order 13769:

“I’m proud that San Diego is joining the State of Washington in the effort to strike down the Executive Order issued by President Trump that restricts immigration and admission of refugees into the United States. This short-sighted action taken by the President is un-American. It has torn families apart and is detrimental to our economy.”

Will Rodriguez-Kennedy, president of San Diego Democrats for Equality, criticized District 7’s Sherman for casting the “shameful and singular no vote.”

He said in a statement: “No one knows better than the LGBTQ+ community and our allies that love wins! That’s why today we are happy to report that the San Diego City Council voted 8 to 1 to support an amicus brief against the #MuslimBan executive order issued by the T**** regime.”

Sherman’s office said the District 7 councilman was asked to sign on to a legal opinion “that no one has seen or read.”

“In addition, the executive order in question is currently not in effect due to a judicial ruling,” his statement said. “It is unacceptable to expend valuable and limited resources in the City Attorney’s Office on an order that could be rescinded at any moment. City officials should focus on local municipal issues instead of chasing national news stories.”

District 3 Councilman Chris Ward, a Democrat, hailed what he called the council’s bold vote.

“I’ve been overwhelmed in recent months as tens of thousands of San Diegans have mobilized themselves in defense of each other and the values of respect and inclusiveness that define our city,” Ward said in a statement. “I’ve been proud to stand with them in those efforts and today, I’m proud that their City Council has said loud and clear that we will continue to fight for you.”

He called the vote an important first step to begin defining how San Diego will respond to efforts that “threaten to undermine the safety of our communities and the human rights of all our neighbors.”

“But we know it won’t be the last,” he said. “Our constituents are right to expect strong action from elected leaders and today I am reminded that together we can accomplish important things.”

San Diego is one of several major U.S. cities that back Washington state’s case, which was upheld last week by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal.

Council approval was required for the city to initiate or get involved in legal action.

City Attorney Mara Elliott said San Diego was asked by the city of Chicago to join in filing an amicus curiae brief in the case.

The president called his executive order a “common sense” move to make sure the wrong people cannot enter the country. Seven predominantly Muslim nations were included on the list for the three-month ban. Refugees from Syria were to be banned indefinitely.

“Americans deserve an immigration policy that keeps us safe without needlessly separating families and shutting our doors on innocent people seeking the American dream,” Mayor Kevin Faulconer said.

“Legal immigration contributes greatly to San Diego’s economy and culture, and our region has taken in more refugees than any other in California,” Faulconer said. “This executive order has a direct effect on San Diegans and I believe it is appropriate in this case for our city to weigh in.”

The closed session took place after about one hour of testimony from members of the public.

“The executive order that established these policies violates fundamental principles of human rights and bedrock tenants of constitutional law,” said Imam Taha Hassane, director of the Islamic Center of San Diego. “And it betrays our values as a nation of immigrants and San Diegans.”

Implementation has had cruel and arbitrary impacts, said Hassane, who read from a statement that he said was co-signed by such groups as the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Anti-Defamation League and American Civil Liberties Union, plus numerous individuals.

Many San Diegans are directly impacted by Trump’s travel ban, Hassane said.

“We are an international metropolitan region — cross-border travel and trade are vital to our economic and social well-being,” Hassane said. “We are on the front line of the immigration issue, and we have the nation’s fourth- highest population of residents from the seven countries named in the travel ban.”

His position was backed by numerous public speakers, including a refugee from Syria who said the vote sends a message on whether his family is welcome in San Diego, and a woman from Somalia who said the U.S. “is fighting for its soul.”

A handful of opponents of filing the brief called the move “gratuitous” and said the law is actually on Trump’s side.

Three council members — Sherman, Mark Kersey and Lorie Zapf — left the dais for most of the public testimony. All three took part in the closed-session vote, however.

Powell said Sherman had an “unfortunate conflict” but was on hand for the decision.

A spokeswoman for Zapf said she wasn’t feeling well and watched the proceedings from her office.

Kersey’s office didn’t respond to an inquiry.

Social media charted the debate.

— City News Service contributed to this report.