Yesterday, the state Senate approved SB 54, the bill by Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin De Leon that would turn California into a “sanctuary state” by largely prohibiting state and local governments from cooperating with federal immigration officials. In essence, the legislation would interpose California statre and local governments between illegal immigrants and federal immigration agencies.
SB 54 passed on a party line vote: 27 Democrats voting “aye” and 12 Republicans voting “no.” Locally, state Senators Pat Bates (R-3t6), Janet Nguyen (R-34) and John Moorlach (R-35) all voted against the bill. Senator Josh Newman (D-29) voted in favor of making California a sanctuary state.
Bates pointed out SB 54 would undermine public safety:
“I am in agreement that state and local law enforcement should not be doing the jobs of federal immigration agents. However, even with the latest amendments, SB 54 would severely restrict the ability of California’s public safety agencies to interact with the federal government to protect the public. SB 54 is not needed. It would lead to dangerous individuals falling through the cracks and being let out on the streets when they should have been deported instead.
“Local sheriffs such as Orange County’s Sandra Hutchens have made the compelling case that SB 54 would have a major impact on county budgets. At least four counties, including Orange, have lease agreements with the federal government for jail bed space. Orange County alone would lose $22 million in the first year if SB 54 becomes law. These counties may have little choice but to lay off sheriff’s deputies, which would endanger citizens and immigrants alike.”
Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens opposes SB 54, noting that while local law enforcement agencies does not play a role in the day-to-day work of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, making California a sanctuary state undermines the ability of local law enforcement to safeguard residents:
“I am particularly concerned that SB 54’s restrictions on sharing information with federal immigration authorities will prevent us from removing violent offenders from our community, impede task force work and significantly jeopardize key funding sources.”
Given the intention of the Trump Administration of withhold federal funding from sanctuary jurisdictions, SB 54’s enactment into law could have disastrous fiscal consequences. For example, a Senate Republican analysis of SB 54 notes:
“At least four counties (Contra Costa, Orange, Sacramento, Yuba) have agreements with ICE to lease available jail beds to the federal government to house undocumented immigrants for ICE purposes. This bill would preclude those arrangements and would result in the loss of tens of millions of dollars of annual revenue to counties. Orange County alone could lose as much as $88 million over the next four years.”
SB 54 originally sought to extend blanket protection to all illegal immigrants in California, including criminals. In response to pressure from law enforcement and Republican legislators, De Leon amended his bill to allow state and local law enforcement to communicate to with federal immigration officials when it comes to criminal aliens guilty of certain violent and serious felonies. However, that is of questionable comfort given that Prop. 57 re-classified a number of crimes – such as raping someone who is unconscious, drive-by shooting, sex trafficking of children, and a long list of other horrible acts — as “non-violent.”