“We’re going to find out very soon where each of you stands on this. This is the most important issue,” resident Michael Rivera said at the meeting. “We are hamstringing our police force and putting our citizens at risk.”
According to a Paso Police Department report, Senate Bill (SB) 54 “generally prohibits law enforcement agencies from using agency money, personnel, or resources ... for immigration enforcement purposes.”
Paso Police Chief Robert Burton stated that the law “has not resulted in any significant changes” at the department, “nor are any anticipated in the future.”Burton explained that people arrested in Paso are transferred to county jail, outside the city’s jurisdiction, and officers then file case reports at the District Attorney’s Office.
“Paso Robles police officers are not trained in immigration enforcement,” Burton said. “We don’t have the ability to detain folks simply because we think they may be here illegally.”
But residents opposed to the law said they felt “under attack,” that the law “created a major public safety issue,” and that it was “disrespectful to the rule of law.”
Several called on the City Council to join the federal lawsuit filed against the state by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, an action taken by Orange and San Diego counties and cities like Newport Beach and Huntington Beach.
“I know this would be an expensive fight, but there are times you have to fight and spend the money,” one resident said.
While nearly all the speakers at the meeting opposed SB 54, one resident voiced concerns about how law enforcement might treat people of color if the city were to defy the new law.
“How would this be enforced? Are the police going to pull people over because the color of their skin?” she asked. “My husband is an immigrant who just became a citizen. He’s a businessman in the community. They are beautiful people.”
A City Council discussion on the issue is agendized for May 1.