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California considers prohibiting immigration enforcement at public schools and hospitals

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) has proposed creating "safe zones" where immigration law could not be enforced. (David Butow / For The Times)
Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) has proposed creating "safe zones" where immigration law could not be enforced. (David Butow / For The Times)

California would create "safe zones" prohibiting immigration enforcement on public schools, hospital and courthouse grounds under a new bill by state Senate leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) that is sure to clash with the tough enforcement plans of President-elect Donald Trump.

By also proposing to bar state and local law enforcement from enforcing immigration laws, De León is doubling down on the issue at a time when Trump has threatened to withhold federal funding from “sanctuary cities” that refuse to help federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

“To the millions of undocumented residents pursuing and contributing to the California Dream, the state of California will be your wall of justice should the incoming administration adopt an inhumane and over-reaching mass-deportation policy,” De León said in a statement Wednesday.

In seeking to establishing “safe zones” for immigrants in the country illegally, SB 54 would require California schools, hospitals and courthouses to adopt policies that limit immigration enforcement on their premises to the fullest extent possible consistent with federal and state law.

Robin Hviston, who heads a group seeking tougher enforcement of immigration laws, said ICE agents are not going into schools and hospitals, and that Trump is focusing on deporting criminal immigrants, not students and patients.

“This is hysteria, whipping the community up with needless fear,” said Hviston, executive director of the Claremont-based group, We the People Rising.

In addition, Hviston said the state cannot stop federal agents from enforcing immigration law on specific properties.

“Federal law trumps state law,” she said.

Senate Republican leader Jean Fuller (R-Bakersfield) said the legislation would be reviewed to make sure there are no “unintended consequences” that could jeopardize public safety.

“Passions are still high after the last election, and I hope we can all agree to take a deep breath and avoid a rush to introduce legislation like this,” she said in a statement. “We need to support our law enforcement and make sure that the legislature is not passing bills that would limit their ability to keep all Californians safe.”

The provision barring the use of local law enforcement for immigration enforcement would not prevent agencies from complying with a judicial warrant to transfer violent offenders into federal custody for immigration enforcement purposes, De León said.

“We will not stand by and let the federal government use our state and local agencies to separate mothers from their children,” De León added.

Updated at 1:10 pm to include comments from Robin Hviston.

Updated at 5:30 pm to include comments by Sen. Jean Fuller.

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