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Morning Report: A Wild Day in the Sanctuary Saga

Five of the eight border wall prototypes lined up in Otay Mesa. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

The San Diego City Council voted Tuesday to direct the city attorney to try to join legal efforts defending California against a lawsuit filed by the President Donald Trump and the Department of Justice. The lawsuit seeks to throw out several California laws restricting how local law enforcement can interact with federal immigration agents.

The Council clearly wanted to combat the image that “San Diego” supports Trump’s lawsuit after county supervisors voted to do just that.

Both the county and city, though, missed the April 6 deadline to officially participate in the legal amicus brief. The city attorney will report back what she can do.

What caught our attention was Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s statement on the issue.

“San Diego is not a sanctuary city and I oppose the vote to join an amicus brief,” he wrote.

We asked the mayor’s office what definition he was using of “sanctuary city” to make the claim. San Diego is not a sanctuary city in the same way that no city is actually a sanctuary from immigration enforcement. But Faulconer’s wording implies there are some sanctuary cities. And to the extent that sanctuary cities exist, San Diego could certainly be considered one.

San Diego leaders have repeatedly stressed they do not ask about immigration status or enforce immigration laws and said they will resist deputizing officers as immigration agents.

The new police chief, Dave Nisleit, drove that home in a recent interview on our podcast: “I want people to feel very comfortable calling the San Diego Police Department if they’re a victim of a crime regardless of their status in this country. I want people to feel comfortable if they’re stopped driving a car or walking on the street.”

The mayor’s office definition of sanctuary city – which it says San Diego is not – is that there is no definition.

“‘Sanctuary city’ does not have a standardized definition. It is often meant to describe municipalities that do not cooperate with federal immigration officials. We don’t consider San Diego to be a sanctuary city because our police department works with everyone, including federal law enforcement agencies, to keep communities safe,” said Faulconer spokesman Craig Gustafson, in a written statement.

Meanwhile, in Washington D.C. …

Escondido Mayor Sam Abed and County Supervisor Kristin Gaspar were two of several California officials who met with President Donald Trump Wednesday to discuss their problems with the so-called sanctuary laws.

“I am a proud immigrant here from Lebanon,” said Abed. “I came here for the American dream. Jerry Brown wants to take this American dream from us.”

Abed also touted Escondido’s cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement since 2010, saying the city had deported 2,700 criminals, bringing the city’s crime rate down to 1980 rates.

Gaspar chose to share the story of one family, whose son was gunned down by an unauthorized immigrant. The culprit, she said, was living “openly and freely in a Tijuana motel.”

“Mexico does nothing for us,” Trump said in response to Gaspar’s story. “They do nothing for us. Mexico talks but they do nothing for us. Especially at the border. Certainly don’t help us much on trade, but especially at the border, they do nothing for us.”

During the roundtable, Trump also said immigrants who have committed crimes “aren’t people. They’re animals.” He’s used the term before to describe MS-13 gang members.

How Fletcher Built His Democratic Bona Fides

Four years ago, Nathan Fletcher was at a crossroads after his second mayor’s race loss. Power players on the left and the right had pummeled him over his political progression from Republican to independent to Democrat ahead of the 2013 mayoral primary.

Now he’s back on the political scene running for county supervisor, with the endorsement of the county Democratic Party and promising to fight against President Donald Trump’s policies.

How did he get here?

Lisa Halverstadt has more: I dug into what Fletcher’s been up to in the four years since his mayor’s race loss and found he made significant efforts to deepen his Democratic Party connections and pursued causes that kept him in the spotlight. He also married Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, one of the state’s most powerful Democrats.

Fletcher told me he committed to causes like aiding veterans who were deported or struggling with post-traumatic stress because he was motivated to use his talents and connections to help others – not to further his political career – but realized he could do more to help in elected office.

He’ll face off against three other Democrats and a Republican in the June 5 primary. You can check out our backgrounders on county supervisor candidates Omar Passons and Lori Saldaña.

KPBS vetted claims in a political mailer about Fletcher and fellow candidate Lori Saldaña’s positions on gun control.

The Union-Tribune interviewed Sheriff Bill Gore about what he’ll focus on if he’s re-elected in June, and challenger Dave Myers, a Sheriff’s Department commander, about changes he’d like to make to the agency.

State Will Probe Hep A Response

The state auditor will dig into the city and the county’s response to San Diego’s devastating hepatitis A outbreak.

The state’s legislative audit committee on Wednesday approved the audit after a request from Assemblyman Todd Gloria. State Auditor Elaine Howle estimated the review will take about five months.

The hepatitis A outbreak left 20 dead and sickened nearly 600. City and county officials had an initially sluggish response to the health crisis – even as the number of cases and deaths surged.

A man gets a hepatitis A vaccine shot amid a deadly outbreak of the disease in San Diego. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Gloria noted during the hearing that the county had waited until early September to declare a health emergency, five months after declaring the outbreak. The county declaration followed a blistering VOSD story that documented bureaucratic fumbling as the outbreak ramped up.

“We owe it to those who got sick and those who died to ask the tough questions about this tragedy,” Gloria said in a statement after the Wednesday vote. “This is a matter of protecting San Diegans and the quality of life we all cherish.”

The state audit isn’t the only review in the works:

  • The county grand jury is expected to release a report on local governments’ response today. City officials say they’re also working on their own review.
  • The county released its own after-action report last week, which described “areas of success as well as areas for improvement.”
  • In an interview with KPBS, the city’s point person on homelessness reflected on a rough first year on the job punctuated by the outbreak.
  • Expect more homelessness news today. Officials across the region are set to announce the results of the homeless census conducted in January. Last year, the county saw a 14 percent spike in street homelessness.

Opinion: There’s Danger in Conflating Sex Trafficking and Sex Work

When interim District Attorney Summer Stephan told us recently that she didn’t see a meaningful distinction between sex work and sex trafficking, she touched off a contentious debate.

In a new op-ed, law professor I. India Thusi argues that conflating sex work and sex trafficking causes real harm by making sex workers less safe, robbing them of their autonomy and diverting police resources.

Thusi was responding not just to Stephan, but to another op-ed in which the president of a nonprofit that works with trafficking victims wrote she has “yet to meet a former sex worker who freely chose that work without anyone exploiting a vulnerability to get them into it.”

News Roundup

  • Doug Manchester wants to be ambassador to the Bahamas so badly that he’s hired a lobbyist to salvage the nomination, Politico reports. His chances of getting confirmed by the Senate took a nosedive in February after accusations surfaced that he had presided over a sexist workplace as the Union-Tribune’s owner.
  • A San Diego resident has filed a class action against Eaze Solutions, a marijuana tech company, alleging that its unsolicited text message marketing violated federal law. Eaze provides the popular Urbn Leaf in Bay Park with delivery services. (Marijuana Business Daily)
  • City candidates and ballot measures are now required to more clearly display who is paying for ads thanks to new city policies. (Union-Tribune)
  • A Lemon Grove city councilman has been sued for allegedly attacking a man after inviting him to his home to discuss his pitch to operate a medical marijuana dispensaries in the city. (NBC 7)
  • The county Democratic Party is warning its clubs not to repeat allegations made against party leaders. The dispute is over seating at a recent fundraiser. (Union-Tribune)
  • Peter Navarro, a former San Diego politician who’s now top trade economist to the president, will participate in a meeting with China’s economic minister intended to avoid a trade war, despite a blow-up he had with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. (Bloomberg, Axios)
  • And over in the North County Report, Voice contributor Ruarri Serpa writes that the Army Corps of Engineers couldn’t get the permits to complete the dredging of the Oceanside Harbor in time for the tourist season.

Corrections

  • In a story examining the district attorney candidates’ approaches to criminal justice reform, we misquoted Genevieve Jones-Wright. She said officers ask drug users or sellers, “Do you have a rock?” when making so-called buy-bust arrests.
  • Wednesday’s Morning Report implied that a committee convened by the San Diego Unified School District recommended that the school board put a measure on the November ballot to install term limits for board members and shift to subdistrict-only elections. The committee recommended a ballot measure to install term limits, but suggested the district keep studying whether to switch to subdistrict-only elections.

The Morning Report was written and compiled by Lisa Halverstadt and Jesse Marx, and edited by Sara Libby.

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