U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers detain a suspect as they conduct a targeted enforcement operation in Southern California. Photo by Charles Reed/U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement via REUTERS

Updated at 3:48 p.m. April 16, 2018

Escondido Mayor Sam Abed and San Marcos Mayor Jim Desmond were among a group of elected officials and residents who urged the San Diego County Board of Supervisors on Monday to join the federal government’s lawsuit challenging California’s so-called sanctuary state law.

SB 54, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in October, limits cooperation between California law enforcement and federal immigration authorities.

It prohibits local agencies from holding some immigrants on the basis of federal detainers, asking about immigration status or sharing information with federal authorities not available to the public, among other provisions.

Opponents believe the law obstructs the deportation of criminals by federal authorities.

“I swore to defend the Constitution and keep my community safe,” Abed said. “Opposing SB 54 is at the core of my mission, personally and for my city.”

Abed said eight U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents worked with the Escondido Police Department to target “illegal criminals.” Now, ICE agents are in neighborhoods picking up “Dreamers, immigrants with no criminal records and separating families,” he said.

“Wake up, Sacramento, and have the moral courage to say `This is not good for the immigrants they’re trying to protect,’” Abed said.

Proponents of SB 54, including the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties, believe it makes communities safer and allows local enforcement to focus on their jobs. Supporters also say it makes undocumented immigrants more likely to report crimes without fear of being detained by federal authorities.

Supervisors Dianne Jacob and Kristin Gasper have both indicated in media interviews that they support joining the lawsuit against SB 54.

“This is a politically supercharged issue as you might imagine,” Gaspar, a candidate for Congress, recently told Fox News. “We’re talking about hundreds of emails pouring in from all sides. But let us not forget, let’s take the emotion out of this. We’re talking about following the constitutional laws of our land.”

The Board of Supervisors will discuss the issue in closed session Tuesday.

A group of San Diego business, law enforcement, philanthropic, environmental, faith and social justice figures will hold their own news conference Tuesday urging the board not to join the lawsuit. That event is set for 10 a.m. at the San Diego County Administration Center, Waterfront Park, 1600 Pacific Highway.

“The sanctuary state law is not only unconstitutional, but it is a real threat to public safety because it forces local government to harbor and shield violent criminals,” former San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio said. “It is imperative that San Diego voters contact the five members of the Board of Supervisors before the vote tomorrow (Tuesday) to urge them to sign on to the lawsuit against the sanctuary city law.”

DeMaio has rallied sanctuary opponents, and a press conference will be held at 11 a.m. at the park behind iHeartMedia‘s studios, where he is an on-air commentator for KOGO-AM.

— City News Service contributed to this report.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.