Supporters of California’s newly-minted status as a sanctuary state for illegal aliens have predictably hailed the move as an act of compassion. However, it’s time to call this what it truly is: an act of rebellion by a state against the authority of the federal government that will endanger the lives of law enforcement officials and California residents.
SB 54, the landmark bill which was passed last October and went into effect this month, bans local officials from asking about a person’s immigration status. Golden State law enforcement will only be allowed to cooperate with federal authorities regarding individuals who have been convicted of committing a specified list of felonies or misdemeanors.
“So what?” the open borders lobby might respond. California already has 35 communities that proclaim sanctuary status, so SB 54 will not significantly change anything. That is a staggering gamble for Gov. Jerry Brown and the state legislature to play with the lives of California’s more than 39 million residents. Make no mistake, word of this law will spread quickly in the illegal alien community and make California the nation’s most popular destination for illegal aliens. The result is likely to be an even larger influx of illegal aliens. Among that population will be those who will commit violent crimes. That means more Californians will meet the same fate as Kate Steinle and Jamiel Shaw II: killed by an illegal alien who was drawn to their communities by sanctuary policies.
Despite those risks, Brown proudly signed the bill last year. He also left a supporting note extolling the virtues of the law.
“In enshrining these new protections, it is important to note what the bill does not do,” Brown wrote. “This bill does not prevent or prohibit Immigration and Customs Enforcement or the Department of Homeland Security from doing their own work in any way … nor does it prevent cooperation in deportation proceedings for anyone in state prison or for those in local jails.”
To anyone with a long memory of immigration history, Brown’s words should sound eerily familiar. They almost mirror the rhetoric of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy when advocating for the 1965 law that dramatically changed the structure of U.S. immigration policy.
"The bill will not flood our cities with immigrants,” Kennedy said during debate on the Senate floor at the time. “It will not relax the standards of admission. It will not cause American workers to lose their jobs.”
History has rendered a verdict on all three of Kennedy’s assurances: Wrong, wrong, and wrong. Brown will probably be gone before the true impact of SB 54 is realized. He won’t have to pay for his mistake; the people of California will.
The Trump administration is responding aggressively. Acting ICE Director Thomas Homan has vowed to flood California with federal agents, and even suggested that California elected officials be held legally responsible for crimes committed as a result of SB 54. The Department of Justice continues to strategize after a Chicago federal judge ruled last year against the department’s efforts to withhold federal money to sanctuary cities.
The immediate result of SB 54 is a growing state of hostility between California and the federal government. Today in the state there is a quixotic but ambitious movement to have California secede from the union. By committing a brazen act of defiance against federal law, California’s elected leaders have declared that e pluribus unum no longer applies on the left coast.
Dale L. Wilcox is executive director and general counsel at the Immigration Reform Law Institute, a public interest law firm working to defend the rights and interests of the American people from the negative effects of mass migration.