April 5 (Reuters) - Escondido became the first city in California's San Diego County to support the Trump administration's lawsuit against the state's sanctuary law, in a sign of growing opposition to California's protection of illegal immigrants.
The decision by Escondido's conservative city council to support the lawsuit came late on Wednesday. In less than two weeks, San Diego County will decide whether to join the lawsuit against a law enacted last year to protect illegal immigrants from deportation. California's traditionally conservative Orange County joined the Trump lawsuit last month.
U.S. President Donald Trump, a Republican, has made combating illegal immigration a top priority and the Justice Department sued California last month as part of its crackdown on mainly Democrat-governed cities and states that it claims are "sanctuaries" for illegal immigrants.
A majority of the 40 million Californians back comprehensive immigration reform and opposition to the sanctuary law, apart from Orange County, has been limited so far to conservative islands such as the Central Valley and northeast rural states.
But a growing number of residents are uncomfortable with Senate Bill 54, which prohibited state and local law enforcement officials from cooperating with federal immigration authorities in certain situations regarding the deportation of illegal immigrants.
"If the county of San Diego joins this lawsuit then I think that's the canary in the coalmine that perhaps the Democratic legislature went too far with SB-54," said Thad Kousser, professor of political science at the University of California San Diego.
Democratic Governor Jerry Brown and Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
If San Diego's Republican leadership joins the lawsuit, it could show Brown misjudged state support for illegal immigrants when he pioneered the law, potentially handing his political nemesis Trump a victory ahead of midterm elections.
San Diego County supervisor Dianne Jacob said she was cautiously optimistic a majority of the county board would back the Trump lawsuit when they meet on April 17.
"I've always supported the great working relationship between the Sheriff's Department and federal law enforcement agencies, and it needs to continue," she said in a statement.
Escondido Mayor Sam Abed said state Democrats cared more about protecting illegal criminals than upholding national laws.
"Your Sacramento is now politically, ethically and morally corrupt," Abed said during the council meeting, which backed the lawsuit in a 4-1 vote, but did not join it as a plaintiff. (Reporting by Andrew Hay Editing by Tom Brown)
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