California Senate OKs 2 Pro-Immigrant Bills

SACRAMENTO (CN) — Rebuking President Donald Trump’s “false and cynical portrayal” of undocumented immigrants, California lawmakers on Monday advanced bills that would fund legal help for people fighting deportation and block law enforcement agencies from cooperating with federal immigration agents.

“The Senate’s passage today of the California Values Act is an acknowledgement of the cultural and economic contributions made to our great state by immigrants and is a rejection of President Trump’s false and cynical portrayal of undocumented residents as a lawless community,” said state Senate Majority Leader Kevin De Leon, D-Los Angeles.

Known as the “sanctuary state” bill, Senate Bill 54 would prohibit state, local and university police from spending money and resources for immigration purposes or making arrests based on civil immigration warrants. The measure cleared the Democratic-led Senate on a party-line vote and will be taken up by the Assembly.

De Leon introduced the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement freeze in December before Trump took office, calling SB 54 a “wall of justice” for California’s millions of undocumented immigrants.

In the following months, De Leon has amended the bill four times due to resistance from state law enforcement agencies. He also removed the bill’s urgency status, which would have fast-tracked the law if it passed both chambers with two-thirds majority and Gov. Jerry Brown’s approval. If the measure clears the Assembly and Brown signs it, it would take effect Jan. 1, 2018.

The latest version would require state corrections and parole officers to notify ICE at least 60 days before releasing an undocumented immigrant convicted of certain felony convictions.

Democratic Senator Scott Wiener said he’s lived safely and happily for decades in San Francisco neighborhoods heavily populated with immigrants and called Trump’s rhetoric dangerous.

“Our federal government is tearing families apart while making our communities less safe, since people are afraid to come out of the shadows to report crimes or serve as witnesses,” Wiener said in a statement. “The bills we passed today will help protect our immigrant neighbors, but they won’t deter President Trump and his allies from continuing to demonize and slander members of our community.”

The measure is heavily opposed by state law enforcement agencies and state Republicans. Republicans called the bill a “shot to the shins” of Trump and warned that becoming a sanctuary state would likely cost the Golden State billions of dollars in federal funding.

Republican lawmakers advocated for more changes to the bill, saying all felony offenders should be included. State Sen. Patricia Bates, R-Laguna Niguel, said Orange County leases jail space to the federal government and that her district would lose $22 million in the first year if the current version becomes law.

“SB 54 is not needed. It would lead to dangerous individuals falling through the cracks and being let out on the streets when they should have been deported instead,” Bates said after the vote.

“If we don’t control our borders, we cease to be a nation,” added state Sen. Ted Gaines, R-El Dorado.

The state Senate also passed Senate Bill 6, which would dedicate $12 million to legal services for people facing deportation proceedings. The subsidized legal aid would be contracted to legal services nonprofits, such as the Public Law Center and National Immigration Law Center.

The proposal by state Sen. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, prohibits legal services from being provided to those convicted of violent felonies or appealing a violent felony conviction. Hueso is still pursuing the bill under urgency status.

Before the Senate hearing, the American Civil Liberties Union held its annual Capitol rally. The ACLU reiterated that it will continue to lobby for the immigration measures, along with proposed reforms to the state’s money-bail system.

“Today, California lawmakers affirmed that in California, we don’t build walls. We build movements to keep all families and communities safe, strong and whole,” said Natasha Minsker, of the ACLU’s California Center for Advocacy and Policy.

(Photo by Lourdes Medrano/Courthouse News.)

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