By: Megan McCauley
SB 54, which has been referred to as the “highest-profile act of defiance to Trump’s nascent presidency,” is indicative of the many ways in which opposition parties have declared war against President Trump’s immigration policies. It is a targeted response to the overlap between federal immigration enforcement and state and local law enforcement. SB 54, also known as the California Values Act, was introduced by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De León in an attempt to build a “wall of justice” that would “protect the safety, well-being, and constitutional rights of the people of California, and … direct the state’s limited resources to matters of greatest concern to state and local governments.”
SB 54 prohibits California law enforcement agencies (LEAs) from using agency resources, including money and personnel, to “investigate, interrogate, detain, detect, or arrest persons for immigration enforcement purposes.” State and local LEAs may not, for example, inquire into a person’s immigration status, detain an individual based on an ICE hold request, arrest individuals based on civil immigration warrants, or perform the functions of an immigration officer. Furthermore, SB 54 creates “safe zones” by requiring all public schools, public libraries, state-operated health facilities, courthouses, and shelters to adopt policies that limit collaboration with immigration enforcement “to the fullest extent possible.” By creating these “safe zones,” SB 54 guarantees immigrants the ability to access these vital services without having to fear deportation.
Several important considerations surround the adoption of SB 54, including: whether the bill will be enough to strengthen the relationship between immigrant communities and local law enforcement, and how it will shift local and state resources away from immigration enforcement and towards protecting communities. SB 54 also invites preemption issues along with state sovereignty and Tenth Amendment concerns. Finally, SB 54 may have a significant fiscal impact in light of federal threats to withhold funding from sanctuary jurisdictions because California expects to receive $105 billion from the federal government next year.
Proponents of SB 54 emphasize that the new law will help protect the safety of all Californians by building trust in the community. They emphasize that sanctuary cities usually correlate with lower crime rates. In support of that position, the Center for American Progress reported that there are 33.5 fewer crimes committed per 10,000 people in sanctuary counties compared to non-sanctuary counties. In response to concerns over preemption, supporters emphasize that SB 54 is merely an exercise of state sovereignty and falls squarely within the state’s police power.
On the other hand, opponents argue that the law might actually make the situation more dangerous because it will force ICE onto the streets. While the likelihood of this consequence was mitigated by last-minute amendments that eliminated serious restrictions on ICE’s ability to access prisons and jails, SB 54 will likely result in an uptick of ICE raids because of the new hurdles to collaborating with state and local law enforcement.
SB 54 was signed into law by the Governor on October 5, 2017.
To learn more about SB 54, listen to my interview on “In Session,” a podcast from the University of the Pacific Law Review.