California bill to create sanctuary state passes key legislative hurdle
Legislation that would protect undocumented immigrants in California by severely limiting cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities has been cleared by the State Assembly’s Judiciary Committee.
Senate Bill 54 (SB 54), or the ‘California Values Act,’ intends to prevent California police from helping the “Trump Deportation Machine,” said California State Senate leader Kevin de Leon, who introduced the measure.
“Under constitutional threats from the reckless Trump administration, SB 54 protects state and local law enforcement and resources necessary to keep our communities safe,” De Leon said. “ICE is out to arrest and deport honest, hard-working parents who obey the laws and pay their taxes and owe allegiance to the red, white and blue.”
The proposed legislation received support from the Los Angeles Police Department, which says it needs the immigrant community’s trust to effectively investigate crimes, by ensuring witnesses and victims will not be arrested and deported just for cooperating with law enforcement.
Meanwhile, sheriff’s unions and the California Police Chiefs Association oppose the bill, saying it would protect criminals.
“SB 54 would result in many dangerous criminal offenders being released to our streets without proper communication and cooperation with immigration authorities,” said Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown, also president of the California Sheriffs Association.
Under the proposed legislation, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents would be prohibited from entering county jails, unless they have a warrant.
The bill would only allow communication between state and federal authorities on undocumented immigrants convicted of “serious crimes.”
Despite a May 25 raid in which ICE agents arrested 188 illegal immigrants in Los Angeles, total numbers of arrests of illegal immigrants are relatively flat in California and somewhat lower than during the Obama administration, according to US immigration officials cited by Courthouse News.
Many of those arrested in the May 25 raids had ties to El Salvadoran prison gangs such as MS-13, the outlet reports. About 90 percent had previous criminal records for a variety of crimes, including drug offenses, domestic violence, DUI, sex crimes, battery, weapons violations, assault, burglary, fraud, vehicle theft, arson, cruelty to a child, robbery, obstructing justice, property damage, larceny, escape, manslaughter, prostitution, trespassing, incest, and receipt of stolen property.
Under SB 54, very few of these individuals would be transferred to ICE after serving time for convictions since the measure specifies “serious felonies” – which does not include most of the crimes precipitating the May 25 raids, according to Courthouse News.
Before reaching a vote on the Assembly floor, the bill would have to be approved by one more committee. If eventually signed into law, it could get tied up in conflicting federal laws.
In May, the Department of Justice identified 10 jurisdictions in the country as having policies that potentially violate a federal law – 8 U.S.C. 1373 – which prohibits local and state governments and agencies from enacting laws or policies that limit communication with ICE about “information regarding the immigration or citizenship status” of individuals, and said that the jurisdictions must prove compliance or face cuts in federal aid.
On Thursday, the DOJ issued an update saying that the 10 “potential sanctuary jurisdictions” have, as required, sent their legal analysis of how they are in compliance with the law, and the department is in the process of reviewing the information.
“Sanctuary cities put the lives and well-being of their residents at risk by shielding criminal illegal aliens from federal immigration authorities. These policies give sanctuary to criminals, not to law-abiding Americans,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions in the statement.
On June 30, the House passed a bill known as the ‘No Sanctuary for Criminals Act,’ which would withhold federal grant money from “sanctuary” jurisdictions that refuse to comply with federal immigration enforcement requests.