In a strong rebuke of the Trump administration’s immigration policy, the state of California on Thursday became a so-called “sanctuary state,” limiting who the state and local law enforcement agencies can detain and transfer on behalf of the federal immigration agency.
Named the California Values Act (or SB 54) and set to take effect in January 2018, the law would provide discretion to state and local law enforcement to cooperate with federal immigration authorities when they detain a suspected undocumented immigrant. The law, in part, strictly limits local law enforcement agencies’ collaboration with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency officials to only conviction cases and not during arrests. It also ensures immigrants are notified about their civil rights before ICE can interview them, stops law enforcement agencies from contacting ICE for translation services for monolingual immigrants, prevents the deputization of local law enforcement officers as immigration law enforcers, and prohibits law enforcement officers from asking for the legal status of detained individuals.
The law will likely continue to face massive scrutiny from the Trump administration over the extent states should extend protections to immigrants. As part of his executive orders on immigration, President Donald Trump vowed to punish “sanctuary cities,” — cities that limit collaboration with federal agents — by taking away federal funds. In previous weeks, the ICE agency conducted Operation Safe City, a massive immigration raid on sanctuary cities nationwide. While some immigrants did have serious criminal convictions, others were immigrants who did not have a criminal record at all.
California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) took the unusual step of attaching a signing message to the bill.
“These are uncertain times for undocumented Californians and their families, and this bill strikes a balance that will protect public safety, while bringing a measure of comfort to those families who are now living in fear every day,” Brown said. He signed ten other immigration-related bills on Thursday.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), 70 percent of all deportations nationwide originate in local law enforcement’s participation with federal immigration enforcement. Immigrant advocates rejoiced over Brown’s signature, in large part resting on the argument that indiscriminate detention could lead to distrust of police among the immigrant community.
“The passage of SB54 has been the answer to our prayers for our community,” Rev. Carlos Rincon, Pastor of Centro de Vida Victoriosa Assemblies of God, LA Voice, Los Angeles, said in an statement. “This will help alleviate some of the fears and insecurities the families in our community faces every day. SB 54’s passage is something that is just and moral. It is the recognition of human value, and the contributions of our immigrant community.”
“SB 54 is more than just a bill — it is a moral statement about the sanctity of families, redemption, mercy, and second chances for immigrants and citizens alike,” Joseph Tomás Mckellar, co-director of the advocacy group PICO California, said in a statement. “SB 54 will ensure California leads the country towards keeping thousands of families united while rebuking the demonization and scapegoating of immigrants and other racially and economically excluded groups.”