LA Voice: California no true sanctuary for any American

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Under the tutelage of Gov. Jerry Brown, California’s legislature passed SB 54 on Sep. 16, enabling local law enforcement and state prisons to hand over illegal immigrants to federal agencies for deportations.

Federal agents can also enter the prisons to question inmates and will have access to inmate information from local police. Based on these major revisions, California is no longer a so-called “Sanctuary State”. Liberal Democrats only won the “face” while the entire
law-abiding Californians won the “lining”.

SB 54 has been dubbed as the Sanctuary State Act. The amended version passed by the legislature had removed this wording and was called California Values Act. In other words, California is NOT a “sanctuary state”.

Presented early this year, the Sanctuary State Act bars state and local law enforcement agencies from using their resources to help with immigration enforcement. They would be prohibited from questioning, detaining and arresting illegal immigrants. In the earlier version of the bill, local agencies would be prohibited from turning over criminal illegal immigrants to federal agents unless they have been convicted of violent or serious crimes. The bill was met with strong opposition from the majority of local law enforcement agencies. Gov. Brown also disapproved and said on Aug. 5, “People in the country illegally who have committed crimes have no business in the United States.” His intervention resulted in a major overhaul of the bill. Democrats in the legislature then went along.

Although the new California Values Act still prohibits local police from asking about immigration status, and bars them from assisting federal immigration authorities in immigration enforcement, these measures were in effect as early as in the ’90s, especially in Southern California law enforcement agencies, including the LAPD and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (combined population over 10 millions in the two jurisdictions). The two agencies frequently encourage community members and crime victims to report crimes to police, insisting that the authorities only care about crimes and not the legal status of those who report crimes. The new law has nothing
new in this regard.

In the United States, the power of federal and state governments is clearly defined. Local police carry out state and local laws. Federal officials take care of federal laws. For example, the FBI agents will never pull off speeding vehicles on a highway. By the same token, local police have no business acting as federal immigration agents to arrest illegal aliens.

The most important provision of the new law is allowing state prisons and county jails to transfer individuals to federal immigration authorities if the person has been previously convicted of one or more of the more than 800 crimes (mainly felonies and some
misdemeanors). Local police can also exchange information about criminal illegal immigrants with federal agents. This will prevent criminal illegal immigrants from being back on the streets after serving out their sentences and continuing to endanger neighborhood and victimizing more people. There have been far too many sad cases. We shouldn’t forget those bloody lessons.

The other implication for the new bill is to distinguish “illegal immigrants” from “criminal illegal immigrants”. The former is those who illegally crossed border or those who overstayed. The latter are those who first entered the country illegally and then committed
crimes and have been convicted of their crimes. Many Democratic politicians like to mix “illegal immigrants” and “criminal illegal immigrants” together to muddle the water when in fact they are not equal at all.

Although not perfect, it’s pretty commendable to pass such a bill like SB 54, at least under the political atmosphere currently in California. Under state law, the state can care less about whether an immigrant has legal status or not because that’s under the federal
jurisdiction. However, once an illegal immigrant violates the state criminal law, this person will be turned over to federal authorities to be deported after released from prison. This can serve as a tremendous deterrence to potential criminals. It can also mitigate the negative effects from releasing many inmates from prison due to Prop. 47 and Prop. 57. It can only help improve the safety of our communities. 

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