Tom Homan, acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), slammed California’s new sanctuary bill, warning it will force ICE to conduct “at-large arrests in local neighborhoods and at worksites.”
Homan said the bill—signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on Oct. 5—will hamper ICE operations in California “by nearly eliminating all cooperation and communication with our law enforcement partners in the state.”
“[This] will inevitably result in additional collateral arrests, instead of focusing on arrests at jails and prisons where transfers are safer for ICE officers and the community,” Homan said in a statement on Oct. 6.
California is the first state to pass such sweeping legislation that shields illegal aliens from immigration enforcement, although at least 300 cities and counties across the country have similar policies.
Connecticut, New Mexico, and Colorado are the other states that have sanctuary policies—some of which simply state they will not honor any ICE detainer requests, according to a map and list on the Center for Immigration Studies website.
Nearly one quarter (more than 2 million) of the country’s estimated illegal alien population lives in California, according to the Public Policy Institute of California. The bill says that “almost one in three Californians is foreign born and one in two children in California has at least one immigrant parent”—but it doesn’t specify whether “immigrant” is legal or illegal.
Senate bill 54 will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2018.
SB-54 forbids local law enforcement to communicate with immigration officials about when a criminal is about to be released from custody, except under special circumstances.
It also prevents local jails from holding inmates for up to 48 hours longer when Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) makes a request for transfer—except for inmates who have committed certain violent crimes, such as murder, robbery, rape, or kidnapping.
Nationwide, for the 19-month period between Jan. 1, 2014, and Sept. 30, 2016, about 68 percent of denied detainer requests were for individuals with a criminal history, according to ICE. In fiscal 2016, under the Obama administration, the number of wanted illegal aliens handed over to federal authorities from detention facilities plummeted to less than 3 percent of what it was six years prior.
SB-54 bans state and local law enforcement officers from asking the immigration status of anyone during a routine stop, and they are prohibited from arresting illegal aliens based on civil immigration warrants.
The bill also prohibits state and local law enforcement agencies from using resources—including facilities, equipment, and personnel—for immigration enforcement purposes without a court warrant.
Violators could be subject to civil action, said state Senate president and author of the bill, Kevin de León.
Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones said the governor only signed the bill after making sure his own correctional system was exempted from the prohibition of cooperating with ICE.
“Now … it will be incumbent upon every sheriff in this state to determine how best to keep dangerous criminals from being released from their jails,” Jones said in an email.
“Since the law doesn’t take effect until Jan. 1, I will be using the time between now and then to determine the most effective way possible under the law to cooperate with ICE only inside our jail facilities to maximize public safety and reduce the likelihood of further victimization by dangerous criminals.”
Jones said he encourages the Department of Justice to challenge SB-54 under the premise that federal immigration law supersedes state laws.
SB-54 is in stark contrast to the administration’s policies of enforcing existing immigration law.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said on Oct. 5 that the governor made an “irresponsible decision” by signing the bill. She said she hopes Californians will push back on the new law.
President Donald Trump issued an executive order on Jan. 25 that vowed to end sanctuary jurisdictions. He said they “willfully violate federal law in an attempt to shield aliens from removal from the United States.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has started clamping down on sanctuary jurisdictions by making them ineligible for some federal funding. Due to its sanctuary policies, Los Angeles already stands to lose $1.8 million, based on the fiscal 2016 amount, of Byrne JAG grants, the primary means for providing federal money to state and local law enforcement.
Devin O’Malley, spokesman for the Department of Justice, said the California decision is disappointing.
“California has now codified a commitment to returning criminal aliens back onto our streets, which undermines public safety, national security, and law enforcement,” O’Malley said.
“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.”
High-profile murders committed by illegal aliens have not convinced state politicians to do away with sanctuary policies.
Kate Steinle, 32, was fatally shot in San Francisco in 2015 by an illegal immigrant who had been deported five times.
Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez was detained for an outstanding drug warrant in March 2015. An ICE detainer request to local authorities was refused, and Lopez-Sanchez was released. He killed Steinle with a stolen gun in June 2015.
In 2008, 17-year-old Jamiel Shaw II was shot and killed in Los Angeles by an illegal immigrant who had just been released from jail.
California has been building its sanctuary policies since 1979, when the Los Angeles Police Department implemented Special Order 40. It prohibited police officers from asking about immigration status during routine stops.
In 2014, Brown signed a bill that reduced the maximum sentence of a misdemeanor to 364 days, down from 365. Immigrants—legal and illegal—are subject to expedited deportation if they receive a sentence of 365 days or more.
Proponents for sanctuary policies say that the policies promote trust in immigrant communities and, therefore, immigrants will come forward to report crimes—purportedly making the community safer.
AG Sessions countered that view, saying in Miami recently that no evidence supports the claim.
“To the contrary, Chicago has consistently had one of the lowest murder investigation clearance rates in the country,” Sessions said, adding that a suspect is identified in only one of every four murders.
“Far from making Chicago safer, these policies likely make cooperation with law enforcement more difficult: If there are no real consequences for the criminal, no witness will risk their life to report the crime. That means criminals walk free and victims suffer in silence,” he said on Aug. 16.