The California State Senate has passed Senate Bill 54, which brings the state one step closer to becoming an immigration sanctuary state. The bill, which limits state cooperation with federal immigration authorities, underwent an amendment before passing the Senate in a 27-12 vote. That amendment stipulates that state law enforcement personnel will notify federal officials prior to the release of violent felons from their custody.
This bill aims to rebuff Trump claims that portray all undocumented residents as lawless and to protect law abiding residents. The goal of this legislation is to prevent the breakup of families by protecting all but serious, violent felons.
The passage of this bill did come at a cost, however. A provision, which required a two-thirds vote and would have allowed it to immediately take effect, had to be removed. It was replaced by one that allowed a simple majority, which resulted in the bill not taking effect until January 1st.
Included in the bill’s list of state resources, which immigration officials are barred access to, are public facilities, such as schools and courthouses.
Federal political reactions to this bill’s passage were split among the parties. Republicans are proclaiming the bill dangerous, and claiming that it creates more problems than it solves. Democrats, however, defend it as protecting California citizens. They believe that immigrants will not fear reporting crimes if it doesn’t subject them to possible deportation, thus making the state safer for everyone.
This bill is not the only step California, which is believed to be home to approximately 2.3 million undocumented immigrants, is exploring in resistance to Trump’s questionable immigration policies. They are also exploring bills that would provide assistance with lawyer fees to immigrants who are facing possible deportation and resist federal efforts to create a Muslim registry.
In addition to these bills, California is considering ways to counter the threatened withholding of federal funds, which could potentially lose the state billions of dollars. One option being explored is to locate and halt the flow of money from Sacramento to Washington.
These bills are hardly a surprise. The state of California has been at the forefront of resistance to Trump since the election. Legislators vowed early on to resist any Trump legislation that might threaten to eliminate generations of political progress. This is a job that California, which is dominated in all three governmental branches by Democrats, is uniquely qualified to lead. In addition, having the largest state economy in the country, and sixth-largest worldwide, allows them greater autonomy than other states. It is this financial autonomy, and the fact that California is one of Washington’s biggest financial contributors, that gives the state leverage that others may not possess, allowing them to choose not to comply with unpopular policies.