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California’s Sanctuary State Bill

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California has proposed a new sanctuary state bill (SB-54) designed to strengthen protections for immigrants. SB-54 was initiated to “prohibit state and local law enforcement agencies from using resources to investigate, detain, [sic] report  or arrest persons for the purposes of immigration enforcement” (LA Times).

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) introduced this legislative proposal, gaining avid support among immigration advocates, but also provoking fierce opposition.

As of now, California cannot stop federal immigration officers from conducting deportation raids. However, the state can stop local officers and deputies from helping the federal agents enforce immigration law.

SB-54 aims to severely limit interaction between local law enforcement and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) , the largest investigative agency in the Department of Homeland Security. ICE primarily provides “timely immigration status, identity information, [sic] and real-time assistance to local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies on aliens suspected, arrested, or convicted of criminal activity” (ice.gov).

The current version of the bill would prevent ICE and U.S. Customs and Border Protection intervention in local jails. It would also restrict local authorities’ access to some state databases. In addition to this, the bill would ban state agencies from collecting people’s immigration status. “SB-54 bars law enforcement from detaining a person due to a hold request, responding to federal immigration enforcement’s requests for notification or providing information about a person’s release date unless that’s already available publicly” (CNN.com).

“If SB-54 passes, it will allow dangerous, violent career criminals to slip through the cracks and be released back into our communities,” Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones told reporters. Some local police officers object to the bill because they feel they will be restricted from carrying out necessary duties, as accessible information will be greatly limited.

Essentially, federal and local enforcement roles are specifically defined, separating each so local measures do not overlap and interfere with the federal authorities. Although this bill does not completely eradicate collaboration between local and federal law enforcement, it eliminates the primary function of ICE, which enables the  sharing of timely and relevant information with law enforcement partners, at home and abroad.

Why should police officers and deputies be given a backseat to matters that could affect people locally? Immigration status should be a law enforcement affair, regardless of local or federal affiliation. Instead of disjoining forces, the bill should be constructed in a way that promotes teamwork in implementing laws. Although these efforts claim to be protecting Dreamers, they also provide protection for immigrants living in the United States illegally — some of who could be criminal offenders.

Ongoing resistance to this bill’s passage is led by California Senator, Joel Anderson. He said, “SB-54 shields child abusers, human traffickers, [sic] and elder abusers from deportation and guarantees their return to our communities, and that’s why our fight must continue.”

As of April 3, SB-54 was passed in the Senate floor with a 27-12 vote. It has moved to the State Assembly.

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