LOS ANGELES — With Gov. Jerry Brown expected to sign the California Values Act (Senate Bill 54), which would make California a so-called “sanctuary state,” local law enforcement officials expressed support and cautious optimism for the measure that would provide protection for illegal immigrants.
“SB 54 recognizes what has worked in Los Angeles for nearly four decades,” LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said. “We have reduced crime by building strong partnerships with our communities, regardless of civil immigration status.”
“We are committed to reducing crime through community partnerships and constitutional policing and SB 54 enables us to continue abiding by these effective principle,” Beck said.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell said the revised bill will preserve his department’s ability to maintain partnerships with federal law enforcement in the fight against gangs, drugs and human trafficking.
“I strongly opposed SB 54 as initially introduced, because I viewed it as a threat to public safety,” McDonnell said. “SB 54, as passed by the legislature, is a very different bill today. Thanks to the leadership of Governor Brown and his staff and members of the State Senate and Assembly, we can move beyond the bill’s early false premise that local enforcement was going to act as immigration agents. This is fundamentally not true.”
The bill provides protections for immigrants who are in the country illegally, but also was altered recently at the request of Brown to give local law enforcement more freedom to work with federal immigration officials and to hold an individual for federal authorities if they have been convicted of a felony or some other serious crimes.
“SB 54 clearly reflects what is working in Los Angeles County and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department,” McDonnell said. “While not perfect, SB 54 kept intact our ability to maintain partnerships with federal law enforcement officials who help us in the fight against gangs, drugs and human trafficking. It also retains the controlled access that the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement has to our jails. This access will continue to be guided by the strict standards of the existing state laws, the Trust Act of 2014 and the Truth Act of 2016 that pre-date SB 54.”
The bill, authored by Sen. Kevin de Leon of Los Angeles, passed Sept. 16 on a final vote of 27 to 11 in the state Senate.
It was introduced in reaction to President Donald Trump’s actions and speech on illegal immigration, including a vow to increase deportations. Trump also has threatened to cut off federal funding to “sanctuary” jurisdictions — although there is no legal definition of the term — which limit cooperation with the federal government on immigration enforcement.
Declaring a community a “sanctuary” city or state has become a way to openly defy Trump.
While a number of cities — including San Francisco and Santa Ana — have declared themselves a sanctuary city, Oregon is the only state that has taken on the identity, doing so in 1987.
On Sept. 15, a federal judge in Chicago blocked the Trump administration’s rules requiring so-called sanctuary cities to cooperate with immigration agents in order to get a public safety grant.
U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber ruled that the city of Chicago has shown a “likelihood of success” in its arguments that the administration exceeded its authority in imposing new standards governing Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants across the country. Leinenweber’s preliminary injunction applies nationwide and not just to Chicago.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has defended the new policies as necessary to help fight illegal immigration.
“So-called ‘sanctuary’ policies make all of us less safe because they intentionally undermine our laws and protect illegal aliens who have committed crimes,” Sessions said when he announced the new guidelines in July. “These policies also encourage illegal immigration and even human trafficking by perpetuating the lie that in certain cities, illegal aliens can live outside the law.”