Irvine Does Not Need a Spectacle of Divisiveness

Irvine Mayor Donald P. Wagner has placed a discussion of SB 54 on the City Council agenda.  I believe this is a serious mistake.

Irvine does not need a spectacle of divisiveness.

Local government has tremendous responsibilities. We make decisions that directly affect the daily lives of our residents. Public safety, parks, traffic, and land use are just some of the many important concerns for which we have primary constitutional responsibility.

As elected City of Irvine officials, the residents have entrusted us with ensuring that Irvine is the best place to live, work, and raise a family. As Board Members of The Great Park, we also have the additional responsibility to create and maintain a truly Great Park for generations to come.

These substantial responsibilities and historic opportunities are more than enough to keep our City Council, and our City staff, fully engaged and absorbed in the business of the People who elected us to work together to guide this beautiful and dynamic City.

We should not chase after issues, concerns and controversies that are well outside our important but constitutionally limited areas of responsibility.

We should especially avoid doing so regarding issues, concerns and controversies that are also highly divisive. As City leaders, we should not be inciting unnecessary and corrosive divisions in our community.

For these reasons, I strongly oppose placing a discussion of SB 54 before the Irvine City Council.

SB 54 prohibits local and state law enforcement from using their resources to investigate or arrest people for federal immigration enforcement purposes. It also prohibits new or expanded contracts with federal agencies to use California law enforcement facilities as detention centers, although it does not force the termination of existing contracts – including Orange County’s contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  At its root is a contentious political dispute between the State of California and the Trump Administration. This political dispute has now become a constitutional dispute, as the Trump Administration has sued the State of California, claiming that SB 54 violates the Supremacy Clause by improperly intruding on the federal government’s authority over immigration.

These constitutional issues will be resolved in the courts, not in our City Council Chambers. There is no good reason for the City of Irvine to become involved.  There is absolutely nothing that Irvine can add to either side of the debate.

Importantly, the procedures and policies of our Irvine Police Department are not affected by SB 54.  In fact, we have been repeatedly assured by our Police Department that SB 54 does not in any way negatively impact their ability to ensure public safety in America’s safest city.

On the other hand, we know that in each of the cities in Orange County where this issue has been placed on the City Council agenda, a spectacle of divisiveness has followed. In city after city that has placed a discussion of SB 54 on the Council’s agenda, resident speakers have been far outnumbered by outsiders and reasonable voices have been drowned out by extremists.

What these spectacles have produced is not positive policy that can bring a city together, but a theatrical politics of division that can only drive us apart.

We are proud of saying that Irvine is not only among the most diverse cities in the nation, it is also the most fully integrated.  There are no ethnic, linguistic, religious, or cultural enclaves in Irvine; every neighborhood reflects Irvine’s harmonious ethnic, linguistic, religious, and cultural diversity.

A quarter of our residents were born outside the United States.  A non-English language is spoken in more than half of Irvine homes, with more than 70 different languages spoken in residences throughout Irvine. Irvine is also home to more than 80 different churches, mosques, synagogues and other places of worship, serving Irvine’s wonderful cultural and religious diversity. Irvine celebrates this diversity and difference in numerous cultural, ethnic, and religious festivals throughout the year, culminating in our world-famous showcase of Irvine’s cultural richness, the Irvine Global Village Festival.

What is foreign to Irvine is the spectacle of divisiveness that this unnecessary agenda item will produce.

I have been proud to work together with my colleagues on the Irvine City Council to accomplish many good things for this wonderful City. While we have had disagreements, these disagreements have not been partisan or ideological. We have been remarkably free from the partisan rancor that has too often overtaken our national politics, much to the disgust of most of the American people.

Despite our political differences, I have never doubted that each of my colleagues has been motivated solely by concern for what this Council should be doing, within its constitutional power to do, for the residents of this City.

I must conclude otherwise about placing this unnecessary and extremely divisive issue that is outside our jurisdiction on the City Council agenda.

This post originally appeared in slightly different form in the Voice of OC.

UPDATE:  Mayor Wagner removed the item regarding SB 54 from the September 25th Irvine City Council agenda, but has now put the item on the agenda for October 9.  My view remains the same.  This unnecessary and extremely divisive issue that is outside our jurisdiction and authority should not be on our City Council agenda.