Gov. Jerry Brown and Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León struck a deal on California’s “sanctuary state” bill Monday after weeks of negotiations.
The bill was amended to expand law enforcement’s ability to cooperate with federal immigration authorities, reflecting a compromise between the two political leaders. Brown previously said he was seeking changes to the measure, casting doubts on whether he would sign an earlier and stronger version of the bill.
“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.
The bill previously built a wall between local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities, with a few exceptions. It allowed police to respond to federal immigration requests related to inmates who are serving time for or who have been previously convicted of a violent or serious felony and called for the state to give ICE at least 60 days before such felons are released from prison.
The new changes give local police discretion to hold someone for federal authorities if they have been convicted of a serious or violent felony, a misdemeanor punishable as a felony, felony drunk driving, unlawful possession of a deadly weapon, felony drug crimes and other lesser crimes.
The new iteration of the bill also gives immigration agents access to interview individuals in jails, which was previously prohibited, and removes a ban on sharing information from databases with immigration authorities.
Despite the changes, de León and pro-immigrant groups stood by the measure Monday. De León, D-Los Angeles, said the bill continues to provide “landmark protections for our undocumented community.”
“SB 54 will ensure that state and local police are not diverted from protecting our communities in order to enforce federal immigration laws,” de León said in a statement.
Pablo Alvarado, executive director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, called the agreement a “victory for migrants.”
“The undocumented community and its allies are ready to stand up against anyone who poses an obstacle for the bill’s implementation,” Alvarado said. “We will ensure, through monitoring and legal action if necessary, that its protections are fully put into practice.
De León introduced the bill weeks after President Donald Trump’s win sent shock waves through California’s immigrant community.
The California Sheriffs’ Association has been a vocal opponent of the measure. The sheriffs had previously argued that the more than 60 violent or serious felonies included in the earlier version of the bill omitted a wide range of dangerous criminals.
The sheriffs submitted amendments to the pro tem’s office in late June. They wanted to strike out language that bars law enforcement from using its resources to arrest or detain people for immigration violations, ask about someone’s status, respond to requests for notification about release dates or transfer someone to federal authorities, among other key provisions of the bill.
De León’s staff acknowledged receipt of the amendments, but that was the end of it, said Cory Salzillo, legislative director for the sheriffs’ association.
Nonetheless, the measure cruised through the state Senate with majority support and was expected to pass the Assembly without additional concessions until Brown, in a “Meet the Press” interview last month, announced he was seeking changes.
Cautious of what a Brown veto could mean for undocumented immigrants and California’s role as the liberal leader of the Trump resistance, the pro tem’s office entered a round of intense negotiations with Brown.
Christopher Cadelago of The Bee Capitol Bureau contributed to this report.