L.A. County Sheriff Opposes So-Called "Sanctuary State" Senate Bill

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Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell (Photo via Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Facebook page)

In a letter acquired by the LA Times, LA County Sheriff Jim McDonnell has come out in opposition to Senate Bill 54, a bill introduced by Senate President pro Temp Kevin de León to prevent local and state policing agencies from using their resources to assist federal immigration enforcement. The so-called “sanctuary state” bill was introduced in December in response to President Trump’s escalating anti-immigration actions.

SB 54 states that “[i]mmigrants are valuable and essential members of the California community” and “[a] relationship of trust between California’s immigrant community and state and local agencies is central to the public safety of the people of California.” With this motivating philosophy, the bill would prevent local and state officials from inquiring into a person’s immigration status, giving federal immigration agencies information pertaining to an inmate’s immigration status, and making arrests based on civil immigration warrants, among other stipulations.

Sheriff McDonnell cites the pre-existing TRUST Act as reason not to enact SB 54, saying the act is sufficient in preventing “the unlawful over detention of those subjects of immigrations enforcement action.” SB 54 goes too far, in his opinion, because it would require federal officers to search for criminals within communities rather than making arrests outside correctional facilities. SB 54 allows for local and state agencies to collaborate with federal agencies only if the convicted person has a previous violent felony conviction, which Sheriff McDonnell believes is too lenient. In an interview with KABC, he claims it puts local and state officials in a “bad position on being able to communicate,” fearing it would “make our communities less safe.” This argument in opposition falls in line with similar arguments against the bill. At a recent press conference, Sen. Joel Anderson (R - San Diego) expressed concern by saying federal officials should look for violent criminals in prisons rather than in neighborhoods, according to the LA Times.

Sheriff McDonnell's opposition sits in contrast to widespread support for the bill from various organizations and individuals, including Mayor Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles County Supervisors Hilda Solis and Sheila Kuehl, and local and state activist groups. Mario Fuentes, of the community organization LA Voice, told LAist that he considers McDonnell’s opposition “part of an orchestrated campaign to spread fear and garner opposition,” claiming his statements are “nice lines to try and convince those who aren’t familiar with the issue.” Fuentes expressed his disappointment, saying “all [the communities] want is for the sheriff not to participate in the deportation machine.”