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California Legislature

Legislature declares California will be a 'sanctuary state'

After long negotiations, Gov. Jerry Brown and state Senate leader Kevin de León came to a compromise on the "sanctuary state" bill. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)
After long negotiations, Gov. Jerry Brown and state Senate leader Kevin de León came to a compromise on the "sanctuary state" bill. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

California lawmakers on Saturday passed a Senate bill that would turn the state into a sanctuary for immigrants without legal residency in the country, part of a broader push by Democrats to counter expanded deportation orders under the Trump administration.

After passionate debate on both House chamber floors, staunch opposition from Republican sheriffs and threats from Trump administration officials against so-called sanctuary cities, SB 54 by Sen. Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) was approved with a final 27-11 vote. But the bill sent to Gov. Jerry Brown was drastically scaled back from the version first introduced, changes that were negotiated between Brown and De León in the final weeks of the legislative session.

On the Senate floor minutes before 2 a.m. Saturday, De León said the changes did not erode the mission of the bill, which was to protect hardworking families, and reflected a compromise between law enforcement officials and advocates.

"This is a measure that reflects the values of who we are as a great state," he said.

SB 54 would limit state and local law enforcement agencies from communication with federal immigration authorities, and prevent all state and local police forces from questioning and holding people on immigration violations.

But amendments added this week would permit officers to continue sharing information and transferring people for immigration authorities if they have convictions for one or more of roughly 800 crimes.

In their respective chambers Friday, at least 20 members of the Assembly and six members of the Senate took the floor for debate on the bill.

Opponents pointed to the concerns from sheriff’s organizations, saying it tied officers’ hands, allowing serial thieves, chronic drug abusers and gang members to slip through the cracks. Supporters countered that the Trump administration was trying to paint all immigrants illegally in the country as criminals.

They pointed to provisions in the bill that would make hospitals, schools and courthouses safe zones for immigrants from federal immigration authorities at a time of fear for some communities. Some children without legal status were not going to school, they said, while police statistics showed a drop in reports of sexual assault and domestic violence as immigrant victims refused to come forward.

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