In a victory for California’s undocumented immigrant residents, on Monday the State Senate approved the California Values Act, a bill that advocates have called “the most strident anti-deportation bill the country has ever seen”:
The bill, formally known as Senate Bill 54, would prohibit state and local law enforcement agencies from using resources to investigate, detain, report or arrest persons for the purposes of immigration enforcement.
The Senate voted 27 to 12 along party lines to pass the measure, which will next be considered by the state Assembly before possibly going to the governor’s desk.
The bill is “critical,” said the ACLU’s Jennie Pasquarella, “because the only way for the federal government to carry out the kind of mass deportations that they are threatening is through cooperation with local law enforcement.”
California State Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León, the bill’s author, called the victory “a rejection of President Trump’s false and cynical portrayal of undocumented residents as a lawless community”:
“Undocumented residents commit crimes and are incarcerated at a lower rate than native-born residents. Counties with sanctuary policies are safer and economically better off than comparable non-sanctuary counties. Our communities will become more – not less – dangerous if local police are enlisted to enforce immigration laws.”
“Our precious local law enforcement resources will be squandered if police are pulled from their duties to arrest otherwise law-abiding maids, busboys, labors, mothers and fathers. Trust will be lost. Crimes will go unreported for fear of deportation. Criminals will remain free to victimize others.”
The bill faced stiff opposition from Republicans—the minority in the state—and local sheriffs, who also just happen to make millions of dollars renting out jails to be used as detention centers. Both groups made Trumpesque claims that the legislation would make communities less safe, despite the fact that research has shown the exact opposite.
“To my colleagues in the Assembly,” said Sen. de León, “no one wants dangerous or violent criminals roaming our streets. The California Values Act allows state and local law enforcement to notify Immigration and Customs Enforcement before violent or dangerous criminals are released from incarceration and allows their transfer into federal custody for deportation.”
“But Californians will not squander their precious public safety dollars to separate mothers from their children, to detain DREAMERS, or to deport honest, hardworking people who are so critical to our economy.”
“This is power!” said United We Dream, the largest immigrant youth-led organization in the nation. “The #CAValuesAct passes the Senate in California! Thank you to all the organizers and organizations in the state for your work.”
The State Senate also approved two other bills, one that would provide “$12 million to pay lawyers for immigrants facing deportation,” and another that would “bar state officials from sharing data if the federal government creates a Muslim registry.” The state has consistently been leading in the efforts opposing Trump’s racist, anti-immigrant agenda, a rebuke that advocates hope will spread to other states:
In late January, San Francisco became the first to sue the federal government over promises to starve sanctuary cities of federal funding, and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed a brief supporting that lawsuit following Sessions’ remarks. “Threatening to take away resources from sheriffs and police officers in order to promote misguided views on federal immigration policy is reckless and puts public safety at risk,” Becerra said in a statement.