Last week Escondido Mayor Sam Abed got some facetime with the President of the United States, Donald Trump.
The mayor was so inspired that he has announced he is forming a PAC to put an initiative on the ballot in California to repeal the “Sanctuary State” law (Senate Bill 54.)
Abed and Kristin Gaspar of the 4th District (which includes Escondido,) chairman of the County Board of Supervisors, were flown to Washington D.C. for a meet up with the president. The round table discussion on May 16 included about a dozen officials from California, all of who oppose the so-called “Sanctuary State” law and support the Justice Department’s lawsuit to overturn it.
We ran into the mayor during the Grand Avenue Festival on Sunday when he dropped by the Times Advocate booth. He described his meeting with the president. “He was very humble. He listened carefully to what I had to say and responded to it,” said Abed. Abed told Trump: “This narrative that sanctuary cities will allow more immigrants to report crime is fake news, Mr. President.”
Abed was part of a larger group that met with Trump. “When I got to the White House I was pulled aside and told ‘Good news, you’re going to be seated next to the president,” said Abed. He was able to spend about five minutes talking with Trump about various issues but concentrating on immigration issues.
The group included 15 leaders from communities that include Bakersfield, Lake Elsinore, San Juan Capistrano, Los Alamitos, Barstow and Stanislaus County.
“It’s not even illegal immigration, it’s illegal immigrants who are criminals who are the issue!” Abed told The Times-Advocate during his visit.
“I’m greatly honored to be here with the courageous mayors, sheriffs and local leaders from across the state,” said Trump. “Each of you has bravely resisted California’s deadly and unconstitutional sanctuary state laws,” Trump told the group gathered in Washington, D.C. “You’ve gone through a lot, too, although it’s becoming quite popular what you’re doing. A law that forces the release of illegal immigrant criminals, drug dealers, gang members and violent predators into your communities.”
Trump added, “California’s law provides safe harbor to some of the most vicious and violent offenders on Earth, like MS-13 gang members putting innocent men, women and children at the mercy of sadistic criminals.”
“Incredible moment being able to speak directly to the President of the United States, the Attorney General & Homeland Security Secretary about the devastating impact sanctuary state laws are having on CA & the safety of our residents,” Gaspar tweeted following the meeting. “I will not back down, and I will keep fighting!”
But it was Abed who was awed and star struck by the special invite and the special treatment. At Monday’s luncheon meeting of TERC (The Escondido Republican Club,) where he is a member, he told the group, “I am honored to have represented all of you!”
He described how, “I got the phone call [from the White House] and I couldn’t believe it.” He was invited along with the 14 other elected officials to spend an hour with Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and others. “The president was involved in the selection of the guests and the seating,” said Abed, who was seated with one person between him and the president.
“I shook his hand twice and I told him, ‘Thank you for saving America!’” He added, “What a great country we have. I feel like I’m on top of the world.” He told the group, “He knows where Escondido is.”
Abed said he told the president his “personal” story about being an immigrant from Lebanon. He added to chuckles from the audience, “I wasn’t going to shut up until he told me so.”
He added, “He is a very personable and down-to-earth. He is very engaged, and he is in command.”
When Abed told the president, “Let us know what we can do to help you?” Trump said, “Sam, let me have your business card.”
The mayor also spent five minutes with Attorney General Sessions and met the director of ICE Thomas Homan.
Abed stressed to the group that the Sanctuary State law actually harms innocent immigrants because it makes it harder to identify real criminals since the police are forbidden from cooperating with ICE. “What does the Sanctuary State do and who does it hurt?” asked the mayor rhetorically. “It hurts the immigrant community.”
Abed learned from the ICE director that there are 561 so-called sanctuary cities in the U.S. and since they have become active, “ten thousand criminals have been released back into the community.”
The mayor said the other 14 California officials shared his fears. “They really feel that this is a big threat to their communities. To harbor criminals and put them ahead of our citizens and our own immigrants.” He added, “The immigrant community is less safe under the sanctuary state.”
Before the law was passed in Sacramento, “we were targeting criminals.” Escondido was known for the trust that its police had built with the immigrant community, said Abed.
Abed said that although CNN and other news networks tried to snag an interview with him that he refused to speak to anyone but Fox News. When he was asked what he thought about the (American Civil Liberties Union) ACLU’s attitude towards the city’s support of the Justice Department’s lawsuit against California he declared, “I don’t care what the ACLU thinks!”
At the end of his talk Monday Abed announced that he is looking into starting a Political Action Committee (PAC) to repeal the Sanctuary State law.