In retaliation to Trump’s call for more deportations of undocumented citizens, California State Senate President Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) introduced a bill to protect undocumented immigrants from having their migration status put into question when in violation of the law. On Oct. 5, 2017 California Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 54, otherwise known as the “Sanctuary State” bill, into law. It will take effect on Jan. 1, 2018.
The new bill sets limits to the degree that local and state law enforcement agencies need to cooperate with federal immigration agencies. Most significantly, the bill allows state and local agencies to refuse to hold undocumented persons upon the request of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
SB 54 will help achieve the important goal of making undocumented citizens feel safe. Local law enforcement need illegal immigrants to be able to call them when needed in order to best protect the publish, as well as to be able to participate in court cases without feeling like they are risking deportation. The Sanctuary State bill allows the undocumented immigrants in our state to live without fear and brings safety to the general public.
In many ways, the bill will protect the rights of the undocumented. Many of the local and state agencies in California are no longer allowed to arbitrarily inquire about a person’s immigration status, detain someone solely for immigration violations, or participate in border patrol operations.
California law enforcement holding facilities are now banned from creating new or extended contracts with the federal government to house federal detainees, although pre-existing contracts will be allowed to continue. Federal agencies won’t be allowed to deputize local and state agencies as immigration officers and force them to participate in ICE raids or other measures to crack down on illegal immigration.
Undocumented immigrants who are dangerous will still be prosecuted under the new legislation. Providing information regarding a release date from county jail is prohibited unless the person has been convicted of certain crimes. Also, transferring someone to ICE allowed in case there is a warrant or the person has prior convictions.
SB 54 is hardly defying the federal government; local and state officials are not obligated to use their tax dollars to implement federal laws. The federal government is responsible to enforce those laws. Forcing local agencies to do the work of the federal government is unconstitutional according to the Tenth Amendment.
SB 54 also will not allow undocumented citizen-friendly cities, called sanctuary cities, to flaunt federal law. When undocumented immigrants are arrested for any violation besides immigrant status, their fingerprints are sent to the FBI and ICE federal databases. This means that even though sanctuary cities might try to make a safe zone, ICE is still able to patrol and arrest immigrants, enforcing federal authority.
Sanctuary cities have existed for decades to provide a safe zone for immigrants fleeing persecution who did not enter the U.S. through legal processes. The problem with the U.S. is that some undocumented persons who try to seek asylum are turned away. The country they come from is not recognized as having a humanitarian crises. Politics always has a say. If the regime of their country isn’t supported by the U.S., for example, citizens of communist countries can be granted asylum. On the other hand, if refugees come from a country the U.S. supported, then their asylum status would be refused.
There are critiques of this new bill. For example, Santa Barbara County Sheriff and California State Sheriffs’ Association president Bill Brown spoke to Capital Public Radio earlier in October about his concern with chronic or serial undocumented criminals who are being thrown back into the community just because their crimes weren’t excessive enough.
Although there are cases where criminals can get away, they don’t trump the many more that shouldn’t be taken away from their families. California isn’t disobeying the federal government; the national government can just enforce its laws without our help.