California State Capitol building (Photo by Alex Proimos under Creative Commons license)
Alex Proimos/Flickr

On Saturday, California's legislative branch passed Senate Bill 54, a bill dubbed the California Values Act and often referred to as the “sanctuary state” bill. It passed along party lines, albeit in a form different from the bill that was originally introduced. State Sen. Kevin de León introduced the bill and negotiated the changes with Gov. Jerry Brown.

“These amendments do not mean to erode the core mission of this measure, which is to protect hardworking families that have contributed greatly to our culture and the economy,” the Los Angeles Times reports de León as saying on the state Senate floor. “This is a measure that reflects the values of who we are as a great state.”

The original version would have barred local law enforcement from having a substantive connection with federal immigration agents unless “the individual has been convicted of a serious or violent felony” as defined by state penal code. The version that passed, though, allows immigration agents to work with California corrections officials and question jailed immigrants.

In addition, police and sheriffs can provide information to immigration agents if the person in question has been convicted of one of the 800 crimes named in the California Trust Act.

Thomas Homan, the acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, issued this statement about California passing Senate Bill 54:

Time and time again we’ve seen tragic consequences because local jurisdictions declined to cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. 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.

ICE’s goal is to build cooperative, respectful relationships with our law enforcement partners to help prevent dangerous criminal aliens from being released back onto the streets to potentially victimize our communities. This bill severely undermines that effort and will make California communities less safe.

One reason cited by state legislators as necessitating such a law was the reluctance of undocumented crime victims, especially victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, fearing deportation if they reported the crimes.

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