In a move widely viewed as a rebuke to President Donald Trump's crackdowns on undocumented immigrants, California's Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown signed a major piece of state legislation on Thursday that designates California a "sanctuary state."
Senate Bill 54, as the just-signed piece of legislation is formally known, will go into effect in January, and arrived after months of negotiations. The bill narrows "who state and local law enforcement agencies can hold, question and transfer at the request of federal immigration authorities," the Los Angeles Times reported.
"These are uncertain times for undocumented Californians and their families, and this bill strikes a balance that will protect public safety, while bringing a measure of comfort to those families who are now living in fear every day," Brown was quoted as saying in Politico.
Brown made clear that the legislation "does not prevent or prohibit Immigration and Customs Enforcement or the Department of Homeland Security from doing their own work in any way."
In most cases, the new state law would not allow state and local law enforcement agencies to use "either personnel or funds to hold, question or share information about people with federal immigration agents unless those individuals have been convicted of one or more offenses from a list of 800 crimes outlined in a 2013 state law." For that reason, it is being called a "sanctuary state" bill, as it essentially provides a legal framework for ensuring refuge for undocumented residents of California and protecting them from federal immigration enforcement agents.
The Times elaborated:
Federal immigration authorities will still be able to work with state corrections officials — a key concession Brown had demanded — and will be able to enter county jails to question immigrants. But the state attorney general’s office will be required to publish guidelines and training recommendations to limit immigration agents' access to personal information. And all law enforcement agencies will have to produce annual reports on their participation in task forces that involve federal agencies, as well as on the people they transfer to immigration authorities.
California is home to roughly 2.3 million undocumented immigrants and 35 so-called sanctuary cities. While there is no formal definition of sanctuary city, generally, cities with that designation have formal laws in place to prevent outing undocumented citizens, and restrict local law enforcement from their ability to work with federal immigration officials engaged in deporting residents.
The state already issues driver's license to undocumented residents, as well as extends healthcare options to them, as the Times noted.
Since the beginning of his presidential campaign, Trump has made immigration a hallmark of his agenda and frequently equates illegal immigration with criminal activity — despite numerous studies over the span of multiple years that prove it to be a false equivalency.
Last month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions called the sanctuary state bill "unconscionable." "Other federal officials also have sounded off against SB 54, suggesting illegal immigration is tied to increases in violent crime," the Times reported.