Capitol Alert

California voters like 'sanctuary state' immigration law – but not everyone is on board

Here’s how California’s sanctuary state bill works

Senate Bill 54, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown and due to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2018, allows state authorities to refuse cooperation with some federal immigration laws. Here's how it is supposed to work.
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Senate Bill 54, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown and due to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2018, allows state authorities to refuse cooperation with some federal immigration laws. Here's how it is supposed to work.

A majority of California voters support the "sanctuary state" law, a hot-button issue that divides large segments of the electorate and elicits strong opinions up and down the state, according to a new poll.

Latinos, African Americans, young voters and women clearly support the state law. Men, white people and voters over age 40 are split. Democrats favor it, but not quite as strongly as Republicans oppose it, according to data from the latest UC Berkeley IGS poll of more than 4,000 voters.

"This is a very politically divisive issue," said Mark DiCamillo, poll director. "For that reason, it’s likely to rear its head in the upcoming elections, both congressional and statewide."

The poll, conducted online from April 16 to 22, found that 56 percent of Californians favor and 41 percent oppose the measure. The immigration policy draws passionate opinions: 38 percent of voters strongly support and 32 percent strongly oppose the law.

Voters in Los Angeles County and the Bay Area, both Democratic strongholds, and San Diego County support the sanctuary state law. Fifty-eight percent of Northern California voters outside the Bay Area and 52 percent of Central Valley voters oppose the law. Other parts of the state are even more closely divided.

Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature approved Senate Bill 54 last year to limit the ability of state and local law enforcement to cooperate with the federal government on immigration enforcement. The law ignited tensions between California and the Donald Trump administration, which filed a lawsuit over the policy in March.

California Gov. Jerry Brown, speaking to the National Press Club on Tuesday, April 17, 2018, said the immigration debate "has become “an inflammatory football that very low-life politicians like to exploit."

City councils and county boards of supervisors dominated by Republican members have been voting to support the federal government's position on the law or a separate local lawsuit against the state. Some have adopted their own ordinances opting out of the measure, one of which is being challenged in court.

Voters largely oppose local efforts to opt out of the law, 52 percent to 42 percent.

"I don’t want to minimize the fact that when we talk about this law, the governor can safely say a majority of the others are behind it," DiCamillo said. Statewide, "the Democratic will is prevailing on this issue."

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