The California Senate on Monday passed a controversial “sanctuary state” bill that bars local and state law enforcement from using their resources to help federal immigration enforcement.
The 40-member body approved Senate Bill 54, introduced by Sen. President Pro Tem Kevin de León, on a 27-12, party-line vote. It now heads to the Assembly.
“We are trying to make our communities safer and be intelligent about this,” de León said. “No rhetoric and no bluster.”
Facing heavy opposition from law enforcement, the Senate leader accepted several amendments to the bill over the last month.
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One required the Board of Parole Hearings or the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to notify the federal government up to 60 days before the release of an undocumented immigrant with a violent felony conviction. De León recently amended the bill again to include offenders convicted of serious felonies.
The moves didn’t appease Senate Republicans.
Several GOP lawmakers spoke out against the bill, saying cooperation with the federal government to deport violent and serious felony offenders doesn’t go far enough and excludes those convicted of human trafficking, assault with a deadly weapon and other crimes.
Republican senators said the bill should include cooperation on the detention of all felons.
“This bill is unsafe,” said Sen. Jeff Stone, R-Temecula. “This bill is unlawful. This bill is designed to make California a sanctuary for certain dangerous criminals.”
Stone and others said the state may lose funding from the federal government if the Legislature passes SB 54.
During a media briefing late last month , U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the Justice Department will require compliance with immigration law for cities to receive grants through the Office of Justice Programs.
Sen. Joel Anderson, R-Alpine, called the bill the “greatest threat to dreamers,” referring to young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.
Anderson said that without cooperation from local law enforcement agencies, the bill will force federal immigration officers into schools and neighborhoods to find undocumented felons. He warned that “dreamers” and other innocent immigrants may be rounded up and deported in the process.
“This is a difficult, difficult issue,” Anderson said. “But this bill doesn’t solve it. It creates more problems. It puts more Californians at risk.”
Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, said the bill makes communities safer because immigrants will not be afraid to call police to report crimes in their neighborhoods.
“This bill makes clear that California will not become an arm of ICE,” Wiener said. “That we will not allow our employees, our law enforcement from becoming de facto immigration officers.”
De León introduced the bill as an urgency measure, which takes effect with the governor’s signature, and argued that it was necessary to protect scores of undocumented immigrants under imminent threat from the Trump administration. Urgency bills also require approval by two-thirds of the Legislature to pass.
Despite Democrats’ two-thirds majority in the Senate and Assembly, last week de León stripped the bill of its urgency status. The move lowered the bar for passage but would delay its implementation until Jan. 1.
“We don’t want to make any predictions about what will happen in the Assembly, wonderful colleagues who we will have to do our due diligence to,” de León said.