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Politics

California Votes to Become a Sanctuary State; Rebukes Trump

In a stinging censure of President Donald Trump’s blatant anti-immigrant policies, the California Senate on Sept. 16 approved a historic “sanctuary state” bill that expands protections for immigrants in the state.

Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor

Sacramento, CA, United States (4E) – In a stinging censure of President Donald Trump’s blatant anti-immigrant policies, the California Senate on Sept. 16 approved a historic “sanctuary state” bill that expands protections for immigrants in the state.

The Senate passed Senate Bill 54 or the “California Values Act” that will limit state and local law enforcement communication with federal immigration authorities. It will also prevent officers from questioning and holding people on immigration violations.

More specifically, the legislation protects undocumented immigrants from possible deportation by prohibiting local law enforcement agencies (including school police and security departments) from cooperating with federal immigration officials such as those from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

It also forbids law enforcement agencies from inquiring about a person’s immigration status.

The bill greatly expands protections extended to California’s undocumented population estimated at 2.7 million. Sponsored by Sen. Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles), the legislation is the most far-reaching of its kind in the U.S.

De Leon, president pro tempore of the state Senate and California’s most powerful Latino politician, introduced the bill in December 2016. It sailed through the state Senate and Assembly without Republican support.

Senate Bill 54 was approved Sept. 16 by a 27-11 vote along party lines. It now goes to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature.

The bill’s approval came a few hours after a federal judge in Chicago blocked the Trump administration’s move to withhold Justice Department grant funds to punish sanctuary cities such as those in California.

“Once signed into law and enacted, SB 54 will prevent state and local law enforcement officers and resources from being commandeered by President Trump to enforce federal laws,” said de Leon.

“Our undocumented neighbors will be able to interact with local law enforcement to report crimes and help in prosecutions without fear of deportation — and that will make our communities safer.”

Some in law enforcement were dismayed by the bill.

“We are disappointed that the Legislature chose political symbolism over public safety in approving SB 54,” said the California State Sheriff’s Association, which strongly opposed the bill.

But there has been compromise on this point. The bill gives law enforcement discretion to cooperate with immigration agents if a person has been convicted of a serious or violent felony and any felony punishable by imprisonment in a state facility.

Officials can also report a person convicted over the past 15 years of crimes such as unlawful possession or use of a weapon or drug- and gang-related offenses, as long as those offenses are felonies

The bill awaiting Brown’s signature, however, is a heavily watered down version from that presented to Senate on Dec. 15, 2016.

The original bill would have prohibited state and local law enforcement agencies from using any resources to hold, question or share information about people with federal immigration agents, unless they had violent or serious criminal convictions.

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