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Assemblywoman Marie Waldron cast a strange vote last week.

Waldron, a Republican who represents inland North County and parts of Riverside County up to Temecula voted for AB299. The bill strengthens an existing law that prohibits cities and counties from forcing landlords to collect information on any tenant’s immigration status, or to discriminate in any way against a tenant based on their immigration status.

The new law extended that restriction beyond cities and counties to include any public entity – including school districts, water districts, public corporations.

It passed 71-1 on the Assembly floor. But Waldron’s vote for the bill was curious, because the original restriction was passed in 2007 directly in response to one of Waldron’s proposals as a city councilwoman in Escondido.

In 2006, Waldron proposed an ordinance in Escondido to prohibit landlords from renting to undocumented immigrants. The reasoning, she said at the time, was to stop overcrowding apartments.

At an October 18, 2006 Escondido City Council meeting when the ordinance passed, Waldron gave an impassioned speech about how the lack of immigration enforcement by the federal government forced Escondido to deal with the problem as a city.

“Our nation is under siege,” she said. “Our own federal government has abandoned its constitutional duty, resulting in treason, and our local communities are directly paying the price. This is about illegal versus legal….. It’s our local police force that has to deal with drugs, gangs and street crime caused by illegal immigration, not Congress, out of touch in DC. It’s our local fire department that had to respond last year to a house illegally rented to 19 people that went up in flames in a tragic fire. Not your Senator taking a vacation to run for re-election.”

The ordinance passed Escondido’s City Council 3-2, but the city was promptly hit with a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund. The lawsuit was settled and the ordinance was never implemented.

In Sacramento the following year, AB976 passed in response to Escondido’s effort. It explicitly prohibited cities and counties from enacting such ordinances.

It all raises a simple question: Why would Waldron support a policy that was passed to stop local politicians from doing the very thing she had tried to do as a local politician?

“That’s the opposite of what she did in Escondido” said Escondido Mayor Sam Abed, who sat on the city council with Waldron back in 2006.

Abed also supported the ordinance at the time, but told me he couldn’t comment any further on Waldron’s vote because he didn’t know enough about the state bill.

Waldron wouldn’t respond to numerous e-mail and phone requests to explain her vote. I even asked a CALmatters reporter in Sacramento, Jessica Calefati, to try to track her down in person on my behalf.

We both ended up with the same response from her staff: Waldron won’t discuss her votes with reporters. She will only speak with us about legislation that she sponsors.

While I don’t have an explanation for the odd vote, here is what I do know.

The GOP Caucus recommended that the bill be approved, so it’s possible Waldron was just voting with her party.

Assemblyman Matthew Harper, a Republican from Huntington Beach, was the sole vote against Calderon’s bill.

The bill, Harper said, seemed “more symbolic than actually trying to solve a problem.”

“And while more folks may be willing to go along on those symbolic bills, I won’t,” he said. “Immigration and illegal immigration are very significant concerns in California. But California only has a certain level of jurisdiction coming to this issue, but the amount of time we spend on it isn’t proportional to the amount of power we have over the issue.”

When I told him about Waldron’s vote and her history with the Escondido ordinance and this particular state law, Harper said, “Well, that is intriguing.”

“Few of us can escape past issues,” he said. “Sometimes the different lens can lend itself to a different view.”

For example, he said, there are policies he would have supported when he was a school board member in Huntington Beach, that he would now vote against at the state level – because he thinks those are decision that should be made locally and not in a one-size-fits-all manner from Sacramento.

That, however, doesn’t seem to explain Waldron’s situation. Waldron’s stance on undocumented immigrants doesn’t seem to have changed since her time as a city councilwoman.

In response to all the discussion in Sacramento about sanctuary states and cities, Waldron tweeted earlier this year: “The lives of our citizens are at risk until criminal aliens are out of the country. We are not a sanctuary for criminals and gangs.”

It’s not that far from what she said at the 2006 Escondido city council meeting when she talked about her ordinance.

“We’re dealing with the direct effects of the federal government not doing their job —to look the other way is treasonous,” Waldron said. “Not supporting this ordinance – and I’ve said this before – is de-facto supporting sanctuary status, plain and simple. Sanctuary laws are illegal in all U.S. states and cities. Not enforcing our federal immigration laws is purely a political decision that has no legal basis.”

Maya Srikrishnan

Maya was Voice of San Diego’s Associate Editor of Civic Education. She reported on marginalized communities in San Diego and oversees Voice’s explanatory...

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