March 27, 2018 / 7:03 PM / 2 years ago

California county joins Trump 'sanctuary city' lawsuit

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Leaders of Orange County, California on Tuesday voted to join a federal lawsuit against the state’s sanctuary law as part of a growing backlash in some conservative parts of California to state laws that protect illegal immigrants from deportation.

The board of supervisors of the Republican-controlled county voted unanimously to condemn a California law that limits police cooperation with federal immigration authorities, according to county records.

The U.S. Justice Department sued California this month over its immigration laws, a move California’s Democratic Governor Jerry Brown said was akin to declaring war on the most populous U.S. state.

The issue of illegal immigrants has become increasingly heated in the United States since Donald Trump became president in 2017 and signaled that he planned to target a wider swath of people for deportation.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has made combating illegal immigration a top priority and is trying to crack down on primarily Democrat-governed cities and states that he claims are “sanctuaries” for illegal immigrants.

Earlier on Tuesday, the U.S. Justice Department and West Palm Beach, Florida agreed to settle a lawsuit over whether the city was promoting “sanctuary city” policies to protect illegal immigrants from deportation.

Under the deal, the city agreed to tell all its employees via a memo that they were permitted to share information such as citizenship status with the Department of Homeland Security during the course of their job.

The Democratic-leaning city sued the U.S. government in February, after the Justice Department sent it a letter demanding it hand over documents to prove it was complying with a federal law that requires municipalities to share information with immigration officials about inmates housed in local jails.

The Justice Department has tried to block cities with sanctuary policies from receiving federal grant funding, leading to legal battles across the country.

West Palm Beach is one of 23 cities and states - including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago - that received letters from the Justice Department in January demanding documentary proof of compliance with the law.

Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and Andrew Hay; Editing by Leslie Adler and Sam Holmes

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