Capitol Alert

California sanctuary state bill needs changes, Jerry Brown says

Gov. Jerry Brown expressed his reservations over California’s so-called “sanctuary state” legislation in a nationally televised interview Sunday.

Speaking on NBC News’ “Meet the Press,” Brown suggested he wants further amendments to the bill barring state and local law enforcement from using their resources to help federal immigration officials enforce violations against unauthorized immigrants who haven’t been convicted of a violent crime.

“We’re looking at it very carefully. We’re having discussions with the author. There are some changes that I think would be very important,” Brown said.

While the Democratic governor generally declines to weigh in on pending legislation, his remarks about Senate Bill 54, by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, come amid an anticipated legal clash over sanctuary policy with the Trump administration.

McClatchy and The Sacramento Bee reported Friday that Attorney General Xavier Becerra, in connection with other cities and counties, is considering charging the U.S. Justice Department with violating the Constitution by threatening to take crime-fighting funds away from cities and states that do not fully cooperate with federal immigration agents, according to those sources.

Last month, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions warned jurisdictions that don't help federal immigration agents seeking to deport undocumented immigrants that they would no longer receive funding from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant. California was allocated nearly $18 million under that program in 2017.

Brown, who appointed Becerra to the post, essentially endorsed the idea of a lawsuit against the Trump administration, saying in the NBC interview that it could be “very helpful to get into court and resolve this in a judicial forum rather than in the rhetoric of politicians talking past one another.”

“If the law is ambiguous, we can often clarify it by litigation,” Brown said. “This is perhaps a rather small test because the money at stake is not very much. And there is this different view.”

Brown did not specify what changes he wants to see to Senate Bill 54, but his representatives and officials from the Legislature have been meeting over the bill. The measure cleared the Senate and is awaiting action in the Assembly when lawmakers return Aug. 21. In the NBC interview, Brown said confronting the Trump administration’s immigration policies is a constant balancing act, and again pledged the state’s support in preventing the “abuse of federal power.”

“We want to be very understanding of people who have come to our state, have worked in our economy, often for decades, picking our food, working in our restaurants, working in high tech industries, the whole range of what constitutes the life of California has been contributed to by many of these immigrants that are not documented,” Brown said.

“And we want to make sure we help them to the extent that the law of California can coexist with the law of the United States.”

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago

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