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U.S. Border Patrol agents detain illegal immigrants after they crossed the border from Mexico into the U.S. (Image: John Moore/Getty Images)
‘Sanctuary state’ bill passed in California
California lawmakers approved a bill on Saturday to make the entire state a ‘sanctuary’ for illegal immigrants. The bill, SB-54, titled the “California Values Act”, and introduced by state Senator Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), will limit police cooperation with federal immigration authorities.
The bill is designed to provide protections for illegal immigrants. California is estimated to have 2.3 million illegal immigrant residents. The bill was introduced in December of 2016 following President Trump’s election, and is one of several measures introduced by Democratic lawmakers in California designed to benefit illegal immigrants.
Other bills introduced at the same time involve diverting public funds to pay legal fees of illegal immigrants who are fighting deportation, and prohibiting employers from supporting federal immigration policies in the workplace, such as conducting immigration status checks on prospective employees. Despite heavy debts and mounting financial burdens, the same lawmakers announced on Tuesday they intend to set aside $30 million in state funds to pay legal fees and other financial aid for illegal immigrants facing deportation under the recently-cancelled DACA program.
“By passing this bill, California politicians have chosen to prioritize politics over public safety. Disturbingly, the legislation serves to codify a dangerous policy that deliberately obstructs our country’s immigration laws and shelters serious criminal alien offenders.” – Thomas Homan, Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Thomas Homan, the Acting Director of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division, criticized the action, saying, “By passing this bill, California politicians have chosen to prioritize politics over public safety.” Homan also attacked the lawmakers for their misguided priorities, stating, “Disturbingly, the legislation serves to codify a dangerous policy that deliberately obstructs our country’s immigration laws and shelters serious criminal alien offenders.”
The bill passed along a “party-line” vote, with Democratic lawmakers supporting the bill, and Republican lawmakers opposing the bill.
Law enforcement opposed or wary of the bill
The California State Sheriffs’ Association remains opposed to the bill, despite amendments added to the bill by local senate leaders to accommodate their concerns. Following the amendment additions, the California Police Chiefs Association, which had initially opposed the bill, announced it would remain neutral on the bill.
Santa Barbara Sheriff Bill Brown, president of the California State Sheriffs Association, explained the organization’s opposition to the bill, “There still are some [unresolved issues]. That is why we remain opposed to the bill after some very careful consideration.” The Sheriff also warned of the consequences to the public, saying, “it’s the public that (ends) up endangered.”
Bill now waiting for Governor Jerry Brown’s signature
The bill now moved to Democratic Governor Jerry Brown’s office to be signed into law. Given Governor Brown’s liberal views and his past embrace of policies protecting illegal immigration, there is almost no chance the Governor will veto the legislation.
Brown announced his support for the bill after state Senate leaders agreed to modify the bill to permit prison officials to continue cooperate with immigration officers, a concession they reluctantly granted due to the Trump Administration’s recent focus on such practices.
Officers may no longer ask about a person’s immigration status, or enforce civil immigration warrants
Under the bill, law enforcement officials throughout the entire state of California may no longer ask about a person’s immigration status or cooperate with federal immigration enforcement efforts. The bill also prohibits officers from being temporarily deputized as immigration agents or enforcing civil immigration warrants.
At least seven cities and counties, including Seattle and San Francisco, have refused to cooperate with new federal rules regarding sanctuary cities.
The passage of of the bill will undoubtedly worsen tension between California and federal law enforcement officials. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has promised to withhold federal grants from sanctuary cities, specifically naming San Francisco and Los Angeles as targets.
On Friday, U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber issued a nationwide injunction, temporarily blocking the Department of Justice from implementing its new guidelines pending a resolution of a lawsuit filed by the city of Chicago.
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Keywords: California lawmakers, California Police Chiefs Association, California State Sheriffs Association, illegal immigrants, illegal immigration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Sanctuary state, Thomas Homan.