FBI: Crime rate fell in 2017
California sanctuary state law clears key hurdle
Top Democrats in Sacramento have reached an agreement that appears set to pave the way for California to become a sanctuary state for undocumented immigrants.
The measure, which is likely to face votes late Thursday or Friday, would bar state law enforcement officials from enforcing federal immigration law, either by asking about someone's immigration status or detaining individuals based on requests from the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency.
The bill would also require California schools, hospitals, libraries and court houses to restrict enforcement of federal immigration laws on their premises.
Gov. Jerry Brown (D) and state Senate President Kevin de Leon (D), the bill's lead author, agreed late Monday on changes to the bill that Brown had sought.
The amendments would give law enforcement agencies more discretion to notify federal immigration officials about convicted offenders in their custody and to transfer those offenders to immigration authorities.
The bill would still allow federal immigration officials to interview those in custody, though it will not permit those officials to maintain permanent office space in state prisons or local jails.
"This bill protects public safety and people who come to California to work hard and make this state a better place," Brown said in a statement.
De Leon, one of the most powerful Democrats in Sacramento, said the bill was needed to combat increased deportations likely to take place now that President Trump has said he will wind down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which covers hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children. About a quarter of all those covered under the program live in California.
"With the president's decision to rescind DACA and stepped up ICE incursions into our neighborhoods, SB 54 is needed now more than ever," de Leon said, referring to the bill by its number.
The amendments mollified some law enforcement officials who had opposed the initial version of the bill. Ed Medrano, the chief of police in Gardena, Calif., and president of the California Police Chiefs Association, said the changes would allow law enforcement to better do its job.
The agreement "addresses the significant public safety concerns we raised during this debate, and it reaffirms what we have held since the beginning, which is that California law enforcement should not be used to assist in mass deportations," Medrano said in a statement.
If the measure passes California's overwhelmingly Democratic legislature, it will set the state on another collision course with the Trump administration, which has sought to withhold funding from local city and county jurisdictions that decline to abide by federal immigration detainer requests.
ICE in February issued a list of 142 jurisdictions - including California and Connecticut - where law enforcement had refused detainer requests. A law on the books in California, known as the Trust Act, requires law enforcement to comply with federal detainer requests only if someone is convicted of a felony or other serious crime.
Several cities, including Seattle, Chicago and San Francisco, are suing the Justice Department over its efforts to withhold grant funding from sanctuary cities.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) said Monday he would sue the Trump administration over its decision to rescind the DACA program, alleging the decision violates due process rights. The University of California, headed by former Obama administration Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, is also suing over the DACA decision.
Also Tuesday, Brown, de Leon and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D) said they had agreed to provide $30 million in legal assistance for those covered under the DACA program. Two-thirds of the money will fund immigration legal services under a statewide program, while another third will be set aside for students enrolled in California community colleges and state universities.