The California Senate passed a "sanctuary state" bill early Saturday morning that would add protections for undocumented immigrants who do not have a criminal record. Gov. Jerry Brown is expected to sign the bill within the next four weeks.
SB-54, officially called the California Values Act, would limit the ability for federal authorities such as Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE), to obtain information about undocumented immigrants from local law enforcement in the state.
While the bill may be redundant in Los Angeles because of how it parallels existing policy, it could have a greater impact in California communities that previously didn't enact sanctuary city policy, said USC law professor Jean Reisz.
"The law seeks to basically affirm a lot of laws, at least in Los Angeles, regarding cooperation of local, state authorities with ICE officials," said Reisz, who also co-teaches at the Immigration Clinic of the Gould School of Law. "If somebody who is not living in Los Angeles and who is living in a more rural area or an area that is not a self-proclaimed sanctuary city, they will still benefit from certain safeguards."
Niels Frenzen, a clinical professor of law and director of the Immigration Clinic, agreed with Reisz that SB-54 reaffirms existing laws regarding the interaction between local and federal authorities.
"There are some jurisdictions — we can look to San Francisco, we can look to Los Angeles to some extent — where there are different types of policy that could meet the definition of a sanctuary city, limiting cooperation between police and sheriffs and ICE officials," said Frenzen. "There are lots of smaller jurisdictions where this has not been the case; if SB-54 becomes law those other jurisdictions will be required by state law to follow these practices."
The bill passed the California Senate along party lines, with all 27 Democrats voting in favor of the amended legislation, while all 13 Republicans either voted against it or didn't vote. The bill passed the State Assembly on Friday.
Critics of the bill claim that it politicizes public safety while undermining law enforcement's ability to do its job.
The California State Sheriffs' Association said in a statement on Saturday that it is "disappointed that the Legislature chose political symbolism over public safety," adding: "The bill's notification omissions for some felonies and most high-grade misdemeanors remain our chief concern."
Los Angeles County Assistant Sherriff Eddie Rivero echoed similar sentiments about the bill politicizing public safety. However, he said the potential legislation wouldn't change how the department currently works with undocumented immigrants.
"For Los Angeles County it's going to have very little impact," said Rivero. "The way we work with our immigrant communities is very strong."
USC President C.L. Max Nikias and USC Provost Michael Quick have not yet issued a statement regarding the California Senate's passage of the "sanctuary state" bill, and when asked for a comment neither was available during time of publication. On Sept. 4, the day before the Trump administration announced the end of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, Nikias issued a statement defending the executive program in response to rumors the administration was about to end it.
Updated on September 19, 2017 at 9:16 A.M. to clarify quote.