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LAPD Chief Charlie Beck Endorses 'Sanctuary State' Bill

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L.A. Office of Immigrant Affairs director Linda Lopez, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, former Attorney General Eric Holder and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck. (Photo courtesy of Kevin de León)
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California Senate Bill 54, or the "sanctuary state" bill, has been one of the state's most talked-about pieces of legislation in recent memory, and it got a major boost on Monday when LAPD Chief Charlie Beck pledged his endorsement.

The bill, which was approved by the state Senate in April, and is currently making its way through the state Assembly, restricts cooperation between state agencies and federal immigration authorities. The California Values Act, as SB 54 is formally known, was introduced to the state legislature by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León in December. The bill has faced some of its strongest opposition from the law enforcement community, including L.A. County Sheriff Jim McDonnell, who announced his opposition amid protests in March. (Quick reminder: the Los Angeles Police Department and the L.A. County Sheriff's Department are two separate entities: the LAPD polices the city of Los Angeles; the Sheriff's Department polices the county, and is also responsible for running the county jail system.)

Chief Beck was joined at Monday's press conference by former Attorney General Eric Holder, who was hired by the California legislature in January to serve as outside counsel for the state and advise on potential conflicts with the federal government. Holder also released a legal opinion on Monday outlining the legality of the proposed bill, and how the measure fully complies with federal laws and the U.S. Constitution. According to a letter Holder sent current Attorney General Jeff Sessions, California has the constitutional power to “prioritize its limited resources in areas of state concern," and the bill "represents California’s constitutional exercise of that sovereign authority.”

Holder also implored Sessions not to direct the men and women of the U.S. Justice Department to “defend the indefensible—the President’s inhumane and unjust Executive Orders," according to a release from de León's office.

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“Our officers enforce criminal violations of state and local law and we are not responsible for the enforcement of immigration status violations,” Chief Beck said at Monday's press conference. “This Act allows the LAPD to fulfill its mission to keep the community safe, while still maintaining the Department’s ability to continue cultivating the trust of our residents." More specifically, the bill would prohibit state and local law enforcement agencies from using resources for federal immigration enforcement purposes.

Beck also spoke about the vital role community trust plays in his department's work, and underscored how the erosion of that trust amidst deportation fears also erodes public safety. “We do not want to lose trust, because we believe trust is the most important thing in policing," he said, according to the Daily News. "The ability to get witnesses to come forward, the ability to get victims to come forward … can be severely detrimented by civil enforcement of immigration by local authorities." He added that "this is not a soft-on-crime bill."

According to a release from the California Immigrant Policy Center, a statewide immigrant rights group, SB 54 is "one of the strongest pro-immigrant measures in the country."

"California is leading. California is doing the right thing. This is something that needs to be done nationwide," Holder said on Monday.