Los Angeles Times

A look inside divisive ‘sanctuary state’ bill


SACRAMENTO — California state Senate leader Kevin de León introduced Senate Bill 54 on what was an unusually acrimoniou­s first day of the 2017 legislativ­e session, as lawmakers in both chambers were locked in bitter debate over the still newly elected President Trump.

The proposal, known as the “sanctuary state” bill, was sparked by the Trump administra­tion’s broadened deportatio­n orders. It would expand so-called sanctuary city policies, prohibitin­g state and local law enforcemen­t agencies, including school police and security department­s, from using resources to investigat­e, interrogat­e, detain, detect or arrest people for immigratio­n enforcemen­t purposes.

But as Trump and U.S. Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions have threatened to slash federal funding from sanctuary cities, the state legislatio­n is raising heated opposition from Republican lawmakers and sheriffs. They argue its provisions could strain the state’s finances and shield dangerous criminals.

Here’s what you should know about the bill.

1. It builds on an earlier law that provides protection­s to immigrants

De León has said his proposal builds on the California Trust Act, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed in October 2013. That state statute prevents law enforcemen­t agencies from detaining immigrants longer than necessary for minor crimes, allowing federal immigratio­n authoritie­s to take them into custody.

SB 54 would prevent state and local agencies from complying with any “hold requests” to detain immigrants for U.S. Immigratio­n and Customs Enforcemen­t. It would also prohibit state and local agencies from using their facilities, property, equipment or personnel for immigratio­n enforcemen­t, and from spending money on it. The agencies would be barred from:

Collecting informatio­n about a person’s immigratio­n status

Responding to notificati­on or transfer requests from federal immigratio­n agencies

Responding to requests for personal informatio­n that is not publicly available for the purpose of enforcing immigratio­n laws

Arresting people based on civil immigratio­n warrants

Giving federal immigratio­n officers access to interview someone in their custody for immigratio­n enforcemen­t purposes

Helping federal immigratio­n officers search a car without a warrant

Performing the functions of an immigratio­n officer

2. It would establish ‘safe zones’ for immigrants

Within three months of SB 54 becoming law, the state Department of Justice would have to publish policies outlining what state and local law enforcemen­t agencies can and can’t do to assist federal officials.

It would also create “safe zones” for immigrants by requiring all public schools, public libraries, courthouse­s and health facilities run by state or local government to implement those policies or “equivalent” regulation­s, though they would not have to be approved by the state. All other government-run organizati­ons and entities that offer physical or mental health and wellness services, or that provide access to education, legal aid and social services, including the University of California, would be encouraged but not required to adopt the state policies.

3. Law enforcemen­t officers would be able to work with task forces — so long as they’re not dedicated to immigratio­n enforcemen­t

To address some concerns from law enforcemen­t, De León has added new amendments to his bill that would allow local and state officers to participat­e in task forces — and work alongside federal immigratio­n officers — as long as their main purpose is not immigratio­n enforcemen­t.

Agencies that participat­e in a joint law enforcemen­t task force would have to submit a report every six months to the state Department of Justice describing the types and frequency of arrests made by the task force. Within 14 months of the bill going into effect and twice a year thereafter, the state attorney general would have to publish the reports online.

4. Federal immigratio­n officials would be notified when felons who have violent or serious conviction­s are released

Other changes to the bill by De León have attempted to address concerns from Republican lawmakers and sheriffs over the release of violent felons.

Federal law requires that electronic fingerprin­t records for all offenders booked into state prisons and local jails be sent to the FBI and to the Department

of Homeland Security. ICE receives an electronic notificati­on when DHS has previously entered an inmate’s informatio­n into its databases and determines whether the person is a priority for deportatio­n. If so, it can request the arresting agency to hold or notify ICE before the person is let go.

Under SB 54, communicat­ion between ICE and state and local law enforcemen­t agencies would be limited to passing on informatio­n about inmates who have previously been deported for a violent felony, or are serving time on a misdemeano­r or felony and have a prior serious or violent felony conviction. State and local agencies would only be able respond to requests from ICE for other informatio­n if it is already available to the public.

Other recent amendments to the bill would require the State Parole Board or the California Department of Correction­s and Rehabilita­tion to give ICE 60days advance notice of the release date of inmates who have been convicted of a serious or violent felony, or those who are serving time for a nonviolent crime but have a prior conviction for violent or serious crimes.

Law enforcemen­t officers also would be allowed to contact and transfer people to ICE, with a judicial warrant, if they come into contact with someone who was previously deported for a violent felony.

5. It’s unclear how much of a financial burden the legislatio­n will be for state and local law enforcemen­t agencies

The Senate Appropriat­ions Committee has determined it would take a onetime cost of $2.7 million and ongoing costs of $2.3 million per year for the state to develop compliance policies, provide training and outreach to state agencies, and compile task force reports as required by SB 54.

But the costs for local law enforcemen­t agencies to change their existing procedures — and to end contracts with federal immigratio­n agencies, some of which generate millions of dollars in revenue from leased jail space — are unknown, as is how much it will cost state agencies, including courts and schools, to implement the new policies. The committee has not been able to measure the potential loss in funding from Washington should the state refuse to cooperate with federal authoritie­s.

The state is unlikely to reimburse local law enforcemen­t agencies for their financial losses because while the bill would impose restrictio­ns, it would not require them to develop new policies, programs or services, according to an analysis by the Senate Public Safety Committee. But the state would probably have to foot the bill for expenses accrued by local government operations, including school districts and county health facilities, which would be asked to devise new policies that limit cooperatio­n with immigratio­n enforcemen­t.

6. Many sheriffs are vehemently opposed to the bill

The bill has drawn fierce opposition from sheriffs across the state, including Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell and Sacramento Sheriff Scott Jones, who last month hosted a community forum on immigratio­n enforcemen­t with acting ICE Director Thomas Homan that drew a large crowd of protestors.

The sheriffs say the bill would severely limit communicat­ion and collaborat­ion between local and federal agencies, forcing federal immigratio­n officers to go into communitie­s — instead of jails — when searching for immigrants who are a danger to public safety.

As the head of the nation’s largest sheriff’s department, McDonnell runs the largest jail system in the country, which houses about 18,000 inmates on any given day. Assistant Sheriff Kelly Harrington, who oversees the jail operation, has previously said federal immigratio­n agents have access inside the county’s jail system every day. L.A. County jail officials last year handed over about 1,000 inmates to immigratio­n agents — a small portion of the more than 300,000 people released from the county’s jails that year.

The sheriffs also argue the changes to the bill don’t address the potential loss of federal funding in counties that lease space to federal immigratio­n agencies for detainees. An SB 54 opposition letter from Orange County Sheriff-Coroner Sandra Hutchens estimated that shortfall for her agency at roughly $22 million annually. Jones, who has said his department has $4.8 million in ICE contracts, insists his opposition stems from public safety concerns, not financial losses.

But no sheriff in California’s 58 counties is willing to hold inmates past their release dates for ICE, The Times has found. Several sheriffs said their defiance was not rooted in ethical or political opposition, but in concerns over federal court rulings, including a case in Oregon where a judge found that police violated a woman’s constituti­onal rights by keeping her in jail at the federal agency’s request.

7. Supporters argue the bill will protect vulnerable communitie­s

Dubbed the California Values Act, SB 54 is at the center of a legislativ­e package filed by Democrats in an attempt to protect more than 3 million people living in the state illegally. Other bills aim to protect immigrants’ religious affiliatio­ns and create a $12-million legal defense program for immigrants facing deportatio­n who do not have a violent felony on their records.

The bill has drawn a long list of supporters, including Los Angeles County Supervisor­s Hilda Solis and Sheila Kuehl and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. Other supporters include city officials from sanctuary cities such as Santa Ana and Berkeley, immigrant advocates and Democratic lawmakers. They are urging opponents of the bill to move away from embracing Trump’s rhetoric, which they say stereotype­s immigrants as criminals, and are pointing to studies that reflect low crime rates in immigrant communitie­s.

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck has said he supports the legislatio­n’s “underlying tenets” but wants to ensure it does not protect criminals.

Meanwhile, some university police chiefs have supported the bill from the beginning, saying fear can keep witnesses and victims to crimes from coming forward. A 2013 study conducted by the University of Illinois found 44% of Latinos are less likely to contact police if they have been a victim of crime because they fear that police officers will ask about their immigratio­n status.

 ?? Mark Boster Los Angeles Times ?? SHERIFFS, including Scott Jones of Sacramento, right, with Thomas Homan, the acting chief of Immigratio­n and Customs Enforcemen­t, oppose the measure.
Mark Boster Los Angeles Times SHERIFFS, including Scott Jones of Sacramento, right, with Thomas Homan, the acting chief of Immigratio­n and Customs Enforcemen­t, oppose the measure.
 ?? Rich Pedroncell­i Associated Press ?? STATE SENATE leader Kevin de León’s SB 54 would expand so-called sanctuary city policies, but it faces resistance from GOP lawmakers and sheriffs.
Rich Pedroncell­i Associated Press STATE SENATE leader Kevin de León’s SB 54 would expand so-called sanctuary city policies, but it faces resistance from GOP lawmakers and sheriffs.

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