In what some would call a clear shot across the bow of President Donald Trump’s stance on immigration, the California Senate passed a bill on Monday to limit state and local cooperation with federal immigration authorities.
Senate Bill 54, commonly referred to as “sanctuary state” legislation, would make the Golden State a safe haven for immigrants living in the U.S. illegally by barring state and local law enforcement offices from using their resources — including money, facilities, equipment, and personnel — to aid federal immigration agencies.
Shortly after being sworn in, Trump signed an executive order to block “sanctuary cities” from receiving federal funding.
The Senate passed the bill by a 27-12 vote on Monday, sending it to the state assembly, The Associated Press reported. The legislation advanced after Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, a Democrat, amended it to allow state and local law enforcement to notify Immigration and Customs Enforcement before convicted or violent felons are released from custody.
“We will cooperate with our friends at the federal level with serious and violent felons,” de León told reporters. “But we won’t cooperate or lift a finger or spend a single cent when we’re talking about separating children from their mothers, mothers from their children.”
“That’s not who we are as a great state,” he saidd.
De León stripped the bill of a provision that would have required a two-thirds vote. Passing the legislation with a simple majority means it cannot go into effect until Jan. 1, while the previous provision would have allowed immediate implementation.
The controversial bill blocks law enforcement from detaining a person due to a request from ICE, or other federal agencies. It also bars local authorities from responding to federal immigration officials’ requests for notification or providing information about an individual’s release date unless that information is already publicly available or, as previously stated, they are a convicted or violent felon.
“Our precious local law enforcement resources will be squandered if police are pulled from their duties to arrest otherwise law-abiding maids, busboys, labors, mothers, and fathers,” de León said in a statement. “Trust will be lost. Crimes will go unreported for fear of deportation. Criminals will remain free to victimize others.”
But Republicans see the bill as greatly flawed and nothing more than an attempt by progressives to score political points.
“By passing this today, you’ll be kicking the president right in the groin, and I can imagine he's going to strike back,” state Republican Rep. Jeff Stone said.
During a Monday address on the assembly floor, Stone said he understands that not every person in the U.S. illegally goes on to commit violent crimes. He said some are a vital part of the Californian economy, but argued that the “sanctuary state” bill doesn’t address that.
Instead, he asserted, it provides shelter for violent offenders.
“We’re prohibiting local and state unfettered communications with federal authorities in getting many dangerous and violent felons out of our communities,” Stone said.
The state lawmaker claimed de León’s changes to the bill don’t address other serious crimes, such as human trafficking, child abuse, and assault with a deadly weapon, which under state law, can be defined as either a misdemeanor or felony.
“How many more Kate Steinles do we need?” Stone asked.
Kate Steinle’s shooting in 2015 sparked nationwide debate over so-called “sanctuary city” policies and became a central part of Trump’s campaign.
An illegal immigrant and repeat felon from Mexico, who had been deported five times, is accused of shooting Steinle as she walked along a pier in San Francisco. Her death inspired legislation known as “Kate’s Law,” which — if passed — would impose a mandatory minimum five-year prison sentence on foreigners who re-enter the U.S. after being deported.
The House passed the bill last year, but it ultimately died in a filibuster by Senate Democrats. It was reintroduced earlier this year by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), the Washington Times reported.
The issue of immigration looms large in California, where roughly a quarter of the U.S. population of illegal immigrants live, according to a March report from the Public Policy Institute of California. And several cities, such as San Diego, Santa Clara, Monterey, and Los Angeles, already have “sanctuary city” policies.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said last month that the Trump White House will use federal funds to crack down on “sanctuary cities” and states that choose not to follow federal law or cooperate with federal immigration agencies.
“The American people are justifiably angry. They know that when cities and states refuse to help enforce immigration laws, our nation is less safe,” he said in late March, adding that the Trump administration will use “all lawful steps to clawback” federal funds that have gone to cities and states that “willfully violate” the law.