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CA Senate passes sanctuary state bill

The California Senate passed the “sanctuary state” bill 27-12 after heated debate, sending it to the state Assembly for consideration.

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People protesting for Immigrant rights in California

People protesting for Immigrant rights in California

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People protesting for Immigrant rights in California

Mimi Li, Staff Reporter

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Beyond sanctuary cities and campuses, some California legislators are advocating for another solution: a sanctuary state. Senate Bill 54, known as the “sanctuary state” bill, was passed last Monday by the California Senate. Passing on a vote of 27-12, the bill will go to the state assembly for consideration. The bill was introduced by Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) as an urgency measure, which, if approved by two-thirds in both chambers, would go into effect immediately. He removed the emergency clause last week which would delay the bill’s implementation, if passed, until Jan. 1.

The bill would prohibit state and local law enforcement agencies from using their resources for immigration enforcement, such as investigating, detaining, reporting, or arresting undocumented immigrants.

It was passed after much heated debate between Democrats and Republicans. On one hand, Republicans argued that the bill would let dangerous criminals loose, as well as gain backlash from President Trump. On the other hand, Democrats argued that California must protect hard-working immigrants who help sustain the country’s economy.

The bill’s author, de León, told TIME that the bill aims to encourage undocumented immigrants to report violent crimes and feel safe in contacting government institutions such as schools, hospitals, and courts. Around 10 million immigrants reside in California, with some estimating 25% that are undocumented. “This is about making our communities safer, not less safe,” he said. “Our role and responsibility is to protect all individuals … We don’t have to collaborate and use our local tax dollars to enforce federal immigration laws. If they want to go after the bad guys, the violent felons and drug dealers, we are more than happy to continue to work with them. But if they want to split families up and deport the nanny, that’s not what America’s about and that’s not what California is about.” he added.

State Senate Republicans were not reassured the bill would assist law enforcement in detaining dangerous criminals. “This bill is unsafe,” said Senator Jeff Stone (R-Temecula). “This bill is unlawful. This bill is designed to make California a sanctuary for certain dangerous criminals.”

The bill has also received opposition from state law enforcement. Though it has the support of some law enforcement officials, California county sheriff’s argued that it would allow criminals to “slip through the cracks.” In advance of the vote, de León amended the bill to allow local law enforcement to give the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) a 60-day notice before the release of violent criminals and convicted felony offenders, to establish easy transfers of criminals to ICE custody, and to work with ICE task forces if the main purpose is not immigration enforcement.

“We will cooperate with our friends at the federal level with serious and violent felons. But we won’t cooperate or lift a finger or spend a single cent when we’re talking about separating children from their mothers, mothers from their children,” de León said on the matter.

Stone argued that the state would lose federal funding if the bill were to become law. Since taking office, President Trump has ordered aggressive enforcement of immigration laws, expanding the definition of “criminal aliens” for deportation. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced on March 27, that the Department of Justice would withhold grants from sanctuary cities, as well as try to reclaim past grants.

“By passing this today you’ll be kicking the president right in the groin, and I can imagine he’s going to strike back,” said Stone.

“Will he strike back? We don’t know,” de León responded, when reporters asked how he thought President Trump would react to this bill. “We hope not. He is the president of the greatest country in the world. It is not about retribution. It is about bringing the country together.”

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CA Senate passes sanctuary state bill