California legislators are considering making the entire state a "sanctuary" for illegal immigrants just days after President Donald Trump declared so-called "sanctuary cities" ineligible for federal funds.
"We will not stand by and let the federal government use our state and local agencies to separate mothers from their children," Democrat Kevin de León, president pro tempore of the California state Senate, said in December, slamming Trump for his hardline immigration promises.
A sanctuary city is a municipality that bars funds or resources from being used to enforce federal immigration laws at the state and local levels, thereby providing protection for immigrants living in the city illegally. Trump signed an executive order Wednesday that directed all federal law enforcement agencies to "employ all lawful means" to enforce existing immigration laws and pledged to withhold federal monies from any city or state that fails to uphold or comply with federal immigration laws.
On Tuesday, a state Senate committee will hear testimony for de León's California Values Act, which, upon passage, would prohibit state and local law enforcement agencies from spending funds to enforce federal immigration laws. In addition, the legislation would block enforcement of immigration statutes in state-run schools, health facilities and courthouses.
From the bill:
In no event shall state or local law enforcement agencies or school police or security departments transfer an individual to federal immigration authorities for purposes of immigration enforcement or detain an individual at the request of federal immigration authorities for purposes of immigration enforcement absent a judicial warrant.
The attorney general ... shall publish model policies limiting immigration enforcement to the fullest extent possible consistent with federal and state law at public schools, health facilities operated by the state or a political subdivision of the state, courthouses, and shelters, to ensure that they remain safe and accessible to all California residents, regardless of immigration status.
Assemblyman Rob Bonta, a Democrat who represents Oakland, which has been a sanctuary city since 1986, said, according to Mercury News: "We need to stand up for every man, woman and child who has contributed to our community. That is under full-frontal attack by the federal administration now."
But not everyone is on board with the proposals, which could cost California billions of dollars in federal funding.
"If we’re getting $100 billion in federal funding, $85 billion of which goes to local communities, who is Sacramento to jeopardize that funding for our local communities?" Republican Sen. John Moorlach, who represents Orange County, said, Mercury News reported. "That’s playing chicken with somebody else’s money."
However, as an opinion writer for the Washington Post notes, there are some concerns over Trump's order, which ties receipt federal funds directly to the implementation of immigration laws:
[L]ongstanding Supreme Court precedent mandates that the federal government may not impose conditions on grants to states and localities unless the conditions are “unambiguously” stated in the text of the law “so that the States can knowingly decide whether or not to accept those funds.” Few if any federal grants to sanctuary cities are explicitly conditioned on compliance with Section 1373. Any such condition must be passed by Congress, and may only apply to new grants, not ones that have already been appropriated. The executive cannot simply make up new conditions on its own and impose them on state and local governments. Doing so undermines both the separation of powers and federalism.
Even aside from Trump’s dubious effort to tie it to federal grants, Section 1373 is itself unconstitutional. The Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that the federal government may not “commandeer” state and local officials by compelling them to enforce federal law. Such policies violate the Tenth Amendment.
Should Trump's Department of Homeland Security move forward with implementation of the executive order, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is ready to launch a lawsuit against the White House.
Becerra, the son of immigrants, was hand-picked by Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, to challenge the Trump administration.
De León's legislation is just one of several bills the Democrat-controlled legislature will consider this year pertaining to the Golden State's handling of federal immigration laws. Two other pieces of legislation would provide state-funded legal counsel to illegal immigrants.
Since Trump's election in November, California Democrats have been establishing themselves as the opposition to the newly minted Republican administration. During his State of the State address last week, the California governor described immigrants as "integral" to his state.
"We will defend everybody — every man, woman and child — who has come here for a better life and has contributed to the well-being of our state," Brown said.