Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown of California has struck a compromise with his State Legislature on a bill that would prohibit local law enforcement from working as immigration agents. The bill, which is expected to be signed into law, would codify California's status as a "sanctuary state."
On Sept. 11, Brown and California state Senate leader Kevin de Leon announced that they had mutually agreed to an amended version of Senate Bill 54 (SB 54), legislation that was designed to prevent California law enforcement from using state resources to detain and turn over undocumented immigrants to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.
In December 2016, de Leon introduced SB 54 in reaction to the election of President Donald Trump, who has vowed to pressure sanctuary states and cities to turn over undocumented immigrants to ICE agents. De Leon asserted that his legislation would not protect undocumented immigrants who had engaged in serious crimes and dubbed the bill the "California Values Act."
"Nobody wants bad people in our communities or neighborhoods or in our streets," de Leon told The New York Times. "They'll always go after the rapist, the violent criminal drug dealer; we've made that abundantly clear."
SB 54 passed in the California state Senate but drew fierce pushback from the California Sheriffs' Association and The Sheriffs Association, who asserted that de Leon's bill was too narrow and would prohibit state police from cooperating with federal law enforcement.
Brown himself voiced concern over the legislation and announced that he would only sign it into law with the implementation of amendments. The original bill only allowed for state police to accommodate ICE agent requests when detained undocumented immigrants had been convicted of a violent or serious felony and prohibited police from cooperating with federal joint task forces.
The revised bill now allows California police to respond to ICE requests for undocumented immigrants convicted of 800 additional crimes, including some high-level misdemeanors. The bill will also allow state officers to participate in joint task forces that don't involve immigration, give ICE agents limited access to state law enforcement databases and the ability to interview detainees in jail.
"This bill protects public safety and people who come to California to work hard and make this state a better place," Brown said in a statement.
"SB 54 will ensure that state and local police are not diverted from protecting our communities in order to enforce federal immigration laws," de Leon said, according to The Sacramento Bee.
Immigration activists maintained their support for the legislation even after the compromise amendments.
"The undocumented community and its allies are ready to stand up against anyone who poses an obstacle for the bill's implementation," said executive director Pablo Alvarado of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. "We will ensure, through monitoring and legal action if necessary, that its protections are fully put into practice."
Meanwhile, Gardena Police Chief Ed Medrano, president of the California Sheriffs Association, signaled that the majority of his group's concerns about the bill had been pacified.
"The compromise reached on Senate Bill 54 does two things: It addresses the significant public safety concerns we raised during this debate, and it reaffirms what we have held since the beginning, which is that California law enforcement should not be used to assist in mass deportations," Medrano said, according to the Los Angeles Times.
SB 54 must pass in the California Assembly before it can arrive of Brown's desk for signature.