California Forum

‘Sanctuary state’ bill shields Californians from Trump deportation machine

'Sanctuary state' bill draws emotional warnings of police distrust, foreign invasion

At a hearing on Senate Bill 54, which would prohibit California law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration authorities, lawmakers on on Monday March 13, 2017 heard emotional testimony from both sides. Video courtesy of the Californi
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At a hearing on Senate Bill 54, which would prohibit California law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration authorities, lawmakers on on Monday March 13, 2017 heard emotional testimony from both sides. Video courtesy of the Californi

The federal government’s relentless push to involve local law enforcement with deportations is further undermining confidence in law enforcement across California.

In Los Angeles, reports of domestic violence and sexual assault have dropped precipitously among Latino residents.

In Fresno County, a mom driving to church had to go into hiding after police called immigration agents during a traffic stop.

SB 54 would bar local and state law enforcement from using their resources to help federal immigration enforcement.

In Santa Cruz, a raid the police department conducted with ICE made a mockery of its purported focus, leaving deep scars in the community.

This is why passing Senate Bill 54, the California Values Act, is of paramount importance. We must assure our state and local resources aren’t used to help the Trump administration separate families and deport millions of people.

The bill, by Senate President Kevin de León, has garnered wide support, including from LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, Santa Cruz Sheriff Jim Hart, and the California College and University Police Chiefs Association. These leaders recognize that entangling police and sheriffs in deportations places even victims and witnesses of crimes at risk.

Yet the California State Sheriff’s Association has launched a campaign of disinformation against SB 54 so pernicious that it actually proves the need for the bill.

In tandem with the endless parade of anti-immigrant pronouncements from the Trump administration, it appears the sheriffs – some of whom profit handsomely from contracts with ICE – are trying to bully our state’s legislative leaders into weakening key protections.

Earlier this year, the Sheriff’s Association proposed amendments that would have gutted the bill, suffocating the basic level of independent judicial oversight which is its core precept.

Our leaders should stand strong and enact SB 54 without further changes.

Let’s look at the facts.

SB 54 does not prevent the federal government from immediately receiving fingerprint notification when anyone is arrested and booked for any crime. This is a feature of the federal “Secure Communities” program which advocates strongly oppose – yet the practice will continue under the bill.

Furthermore, contrary to opponents’ claims, local law enforcement will still be able to work with federal authorities to investigate crimes such as human trafficking. Yet task forces with the feds often lead to abuses and must be monitored closely.

Moreover, anyone who watches the news can see raids are in fact already happening frequently – and the effects on families and communities are devastating. Opponents’ claims that the bill would worsen this situation don’t reflect reality – there are many tens of thousands more local law enforcement officers than ICE agents.

Making sure local police and sheriffs don’t act as deportation agents is the most effective way to challenge President Donald Trump’s deportation machine.

The police rely on a criminal justice system wrought with racial bias to fearmonger about immigrants. But most Californians recognize that mass incarceration and racial profiling are wrong.

With Trump openly encouraging law enforcement to be “rough” and commit abuses, California must ensure that sheriffs and police treat all people fairly, no matter what they look like or where they were born. SB 54 is an important step in that direction.

Cynthia Buiza is the executive director of the California Immigrant Policy Center. Contact her at info@caimmigrant.org.

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