Monday, February 27, 2017
Guest blogger: Kathia Morales, University of San Francisco Law Student:
California’s legislature has recently proposed to make California a “Sanctuary State” in response to President Trump’s aggressive stance on immigration. Cities such as San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles already have sanctuary status meaning that local agencies do not actively cooperative with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. That means that on a routine stop or arrest, officers are not inquiring about a person’s legal status. What does a “sanctuary state” entail? According to a Vice News television report, the proposed legislation would prohibit local, county, and campus police departments and state agencies from collaboration with federal immigration authorities. It would also make public schools, courthouses and health facilities a safe haven or “Safe Zone.” More important, SB 54 would prevent the federal government from accessing data on the undocumented population found in the state database. Recently, more than 50 organizations showed up in strong support of the legislation. The California Sheriff’s Association, however, is one of the major opponents to SB 54.
President Trump has threatened to defund sanctuary cities. California receives a total of $368 billion in federal funds. Dan Reeves, the press secretary for State Senator and President pro tem Kevin de Leon (D – Los Angeles) believes that Trump’s comments regarding defunding the state or cities are “empty threats.” According to Gustavo Solis of the Desert Sun newspaper, “the bill aims to limit what information local agencies can gather so that when ICE asks about immigration status, local agencies are allowed to communicate but won’t have much to say.” This would therefore meet the requirements to maintain federal aid.
Currently, more than 3 million undocumented immigrants are estimated to be living in California. I believe the idea of a “sanctuary state” would reiterate that the majority of Californians disagree with the president and are going to maintain dignity for all Californians regardless of immigration status. This bill would prevent cities and counties from extending their authority by collaborating with immigration officials in the rounding up of the undocumented population. This is a positive development because our local and county law enforcement should be focused on preventing crime, not assisting in removal operations of our undocumented populations. A study from the American Community Survey in 2010 shows that the undocumented population is more law abiding than citizens of the United States, and less likely to be incarcerated.
Unfortunately, there are cities in the state such as Fresno and Bakersfield who feel inclined to question an arrestee on their legal status and report violators to immigration officials. Sheriff Youngblood of Kern County stated he was uncertain he would follow SB 54 if it became state law.
Within the past few weeks ICE has conducted raids in sanctuary cities across the country including Los Angeles without the assistance of city and county officials. Similarly, ICE has been spotted in San Francisco’s Mission district. This shows that just because California would become a sanctuary state does not mean that ICE would not be active or visible in the state. This bill would only hamper ICE’s ability to seize the undocumented population. The Trump administration’s new immigration priorities expand on Obama’s priorities for deportation, increasing the eligible population for deportation.
The largest and most progressive state in the country should take the lead in fighting back against the president’s dehumanizing immigration priorities. The criminalization of the undocumented population is a surreal reality and needs to be combatted by California and other progressive jurisdictions across the country. Taking such a stance would send a clear message to the White House and show our undocumented community that although our border may soon close, our back is not turned on the folks who have contributed to American society.