By Eden Ovadia
Last month, California governor Jerry Brown signed the “Sanctuary State” bill, increasing protection for immigrants without legal documentation living in the state. The bill, also known as “Senate Bill 54,” will take effect on January 1, 2018.
Becoming a sanctuary state limits the ability for state law enforcement officers to act upon the requests of federal immigration authorities. This means that the law enforcement officers no longer have the ability to hold or question illegal immigrants. Law enforcement officers will only be able to transfer immigrants in jail to immigration authorities if they have been convicted of a crime.
“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 said in a statement.
The path towards signing this bill has been well underway in the past years as many of California’s largest cities, including San Francisco and more recently Los Angeles, have already been acting under sanctuary city policies, meaning there is a lack of cooperation with federal immigration authorities in detaining illegal immigrants.
The bill has gained a great amount of support from multiple Democrats in the nation. A notable one being Joaquin Arambula, a Democratic Assemblyman and the grandson of immigrants who came to California illegally. He expressed his support for the bill the day Brown signed it. “This bill here today helps some of us to believe that California is a safe place for immigrants, that we are a Golden State,” Arambula said according to the LA Times.
However, signing the bill has created a conflict for the state of California with President Donald Trump’s policies. The President’s call to deport millions of illegal immigrants living in the country will now be extremely difficult to carry out in California. Many in the Trump administration have responded negatively to the bill including the spokesman for the Department of Justice, Devin O’Malley.
“The State of California has now codified a commitment to returning criminal aliens back onto our streets, which undermines public safety, national security, and law enforcement. Given the multiple high-profile incidents that have occurred in California in recent years, it is especially disappointing that state leaders have made it law to limit cooperation between local jurisdictions and immigration authorities attempting to keep Californians safe,” O’Malley said in a statement.
Additionally, workers for federal immigration authorities have stated their concerns with this bill as well. “By passing this bill, California politicians have chosen to prioritize politics over public safety. Disturbingly, the legislation serves to codify a dangerous policy that deliberately obstructs our country’s immigration laws and shelters serious criminal alien offenders,” Thomas Homan, the director of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), said in a statement.
For many living in California, this new bill is extremely valuable. Over 2.3 million illegal immigrants are living in California and becoming a sanctuary state will keep them safe from trouble with law enforcement officers and even deportation. The large community of immigrants in California has been rewarded with a new freedom, allowing them to do as they wish without fear of being detained by officers working for immigration authorities.