'Sanctuary State' Bill Moves Forward in California Senate


The California State Senate's public safety committee passed a bill today that would prohibit local law enforcement agencies from using resources to investigate, interrogate, detain, or arrest anyone due to their immigration status.

Introduced by Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de Leon, SB 54 builds on other recently passed measures that supporters say are meant to build trust between law enforcement agencies and the state's immigrant communities, and to protect immigrants who aren't convicted of violent crimes from being arrested and deported.

See also: Ambushed: Contra Costa County Law Enforcement Sets Up Surprise Stings To Help Federal Immigration Agents Arrest and Deport Immigrants

Senator Nancy Skinner.
  • Senator Nancy Skinner.
The bill gained momentum in recent days as the Trump administration rolled out a confusing ban on the arrival of refugees and people from seven majority-Muslim nations. Trump also ordered that federal funds be withheld from sanctuary cities, exempting only grants to law enforcement agencies.

But California's lawmakers appear unfazed by Trump's anti-immigration stance.

"We are making it clear the State of California will not be complicit with authoritarian policies that do not improve the safety of our communities," said Sen. Nancy Skinner, the chair of the public safety committee just before the bill was approved in a five to two vote.

Also voting in favor of the bill was Scott Weiner (San Francisco), Holly Mitchell (Los Angles), Steven Bradford (South Los Angeles County), and Hannah Beth Jackson (Santa Barbara).

Senators Jeff Stone (Palm Springs) and Joel Anderson (East San Diego County) voted against the bill, citing concerns that it will hamper efforts by the police to remove immigrants convicted of violent crimes from California.

Senator Joel Anderson.
  • Senator Joel Anderson.
"I don’t live in a rich community that has walls and armed guards," said Anderson. "I represent hardworking blue collar folks and they deserve a break, they don’t want more crime."

In response, de Leon said most Californians don't live in gated communities, especially the state's undocumented residents. He said it's imperative that the police not participate in activities that "stoke the fears" of Californians that they or a family member could be deported simply for talking to a police officer, or cooperating in an investigation.

He also accused Trump of politicizing immigration in a way that harkens back to the politics of California's Republican Party in the 1990s when then Governor Pete Wilson campaigned for his second term by supporting Proposition 187, which barred undocumented immigrants from accessing healthcare, attending public schools, and using other resources. "Pete Wilson looks like a choir boy compared to what's happening today," said de Leon.

Others on the committee said the bill won't impair California's police from enforcing the state's laws, only that it will clarify that it's the role of the federal government to enforce immigration laws, and state and local police resources won't be diverted for this mission.

Senator Jackson said the bill will make California safer by ensuring that victims, witnesses, and others feel comfortable cooperating with the police.

"I know this as a former prosecutor, if you don’t have the cooperation of victims and the community you will get nowhere," she said.