California Lawmakers Pass Statewide Sanctuary Bill

California Lawmakers Pass Statewide Sanctuary BillWith a party-line 27-11 vote, California legislators passed Senate Bill 54 to protect undocumented immigrants in the state. With its passage, legislators send the final version of the proposed law–the California Values Act– to Democrat Gov. Jerry Brown for his expected signature and move closer to a statewide sanctuary.

The legislation, which has been described as a measure giving California statewide sanctuary status, is a “drastically scaled back” version of the bill that was first introduced, “the result of tough negotiation between Brown and (bill sponsor California president pro Tem and Democrat from Los Angeles Kevin) De Leon in the final weeks of the legislative session,” according to The Los Angeles Times.

While the bill’s intent is to provide state protections from federal law enforcement for immigrants, amendments watering down the bill include continued approval for federal immigration officials to continue working with state corrections officials and continuing to enter county jails to question immigrants.

Police and sheriff’s deputies can also share information about convicted immigrants and transfer them to federal authorities. This aspect applies to those immigrants who’ve been convicted of one or more crimes listed in the California Trust Act, which includes a list of 800 offenses.

While immigrant advocacy groups maintain their support of the bill’s passage, the groups “previously disappointed with the list of offenses under the Trust Act, were dismayed to see the same exceptions applied in the so-called sanctuary state bill.” A primary issue includes “wobbler” offenses, which can carry either a misdemeanor or a felony charge, which has the “potential to ensnare people who do not pose a danger to the public.”

Among those concessions won by immigrant advocacy groups is the requirement that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation develop new protection standards for those people held on immigration violations. Immigrant inmates are to also receive served-sentence credit with rehabilitation and education programs undertaken while incarcerated.

Among those who opposed SB 54 is Assemblyman Steven Choi. Choi, a Republican representing constituents in Irvine, is a first-generation South Korean immigrant. He argued the bill creates “chaos” and runs contrary to the nation’s law-and-order foundation.

Earlier this year, former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder reviewed the bill, which he assessed as passing Constitutional muster. States, he said, have the “power over the health and safety of their residents and allocation of state resources.”