The rhetorical war over immigration has suddenly become a ground war in Southern California. While some towns in conservative Orange County are now encouraging their local police to roust the undocumented, one small city in Los Angeles County has taken the opposite tack.

The city council of Maywood, more than 95% Latino and with a population of 45,000, has vowed to declare itself a "sanctuary city" for undocumented immigrants. And the council majority, which took power a few months ago, is going way beyond symbolism.

The city has dismantled its traffic division and changed the laws for towing and impounding cars. What’s that got to do with illegal aliens? Plenty, it turns out. Under the previous city administration, the city was apparently feeding off of large fines and vehicle impounds imposed on the undocumented who got snared in Maywood’s often ubiquitous ‘sobriety checkpoints’ – in reality an organized shakedown operation run out of City Hall.

Other actions by the new city government – elected in an explicitly pro-immigrant campaign–include passing resolutions against proposed restrictive border measures.

The council also wants to rename one of its local schools for Mexican independence hero Benito Juarez. Just because the city is 96% Latino, however, doesn’t mean that everyone’s going along with the new sanctuary program. Some old timer Anglos as well as Latinos are upset. And, predictably, the City of Maywood has become a high-profile target for some of the local right-wing radio talkers.

The L.A. Times has a comprehensive report. Also, check out my personal blog to stay current on the overall immigration reform battle, as well as the whole national political conversation .