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California Lawmakers Approve 'Sanctuary State' Bill

A supporter of SB-54 at a rally earlier this summer. (Photo by Julia Wick/LAist)
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California lawmakers voted to approve SB-54 Saturday morning. Also known as the "sanctuary state" bill, SB-54 passed the State Assembly Friday afternoon and was approved by the Senate Saturday by a vote of 27-11, along party lines. The bill will now go to Governor Jerry Brown, who has final approval.

The bill's primary sanctuary functions include preventing state and local law enforcement from inquiring into a person's immigration status and from providing information to federal immigration authorities. While the bill is a landmark—the first of its kind to pass amid the growing conversation around cities' "sanctuary" status around the nation—it is not the first of its kind. KPCC notes Oregon passed a similar, but less comprehensive, bill 30 years ago.

SB-54 was initially introduced by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D- Los Angeles) in December of last year. It was presented as a way to counteract the deportation orders and increase in existential threats for immigrants following President Trump's election into office. The current iteration of the bill is significantly watered down from the original version, as the L.A. Times points out, following weeks of negotiation between de León and Governor Brown. For example, the current bill still allows federal immigration officials to work with state correctional facilities as well as allowing ICE officials to enter jails to question immigrants. It also allows state police and sheriff's officials to share information with ICE, and possibly transfer people to ICE custody, if a person is found convicted of one or more crimes from the California Trust Act.

Support for the bill has been a calling card for many local and state activist groups. In Los Angeles, the activism has been focused towards fighting Sheriff Jim McDonnell's opposition to the bill, specifically calling for an end to collaboration with ICE at McDonnell's detention facilities. McDonnell's opposition stemmed from a perspective that allowing felons to re-enter the community after imprisonment would endanger the immigrant population. The bill as it currently stands made concessions to Governor Brown's demands and still allows for collaboration between ICE and state corrections officials, therefore acquiescing to concerns like those of Sheriff McDonnell. In response to the final version of the bill, McDonnell said it "reflects law enforcement mission already underway." He also said how, "While not perfect, SB 54 kept intact our ability to maintain partnerships with federal law enforcement officials who help us in the fight against gangs, drugs and human trafficking," according to CBS.

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Governor Brown is expected to sign the bill into law. The approval of SB-54 comes one day after a Chicago judge blocked President Trump's attempts to add stipulations to public safety grants that would require ICE access to local jails, therefore discouraging cities from declaring sanctuary status.

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