Under threat of possible retaliation by the Trump administration, Gov. Jerry Brown signed landmark “sanctuary state” legislation Thursday, vastly limiting who state and local law enforcement agencies can hold, question and transfer at the request of federal immigration authorities.
Senate Bill 54, which takes effect in January, has been blasted as “unconscionable” by U.S. Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions, becoming the focus of a national debate over how far states and cities can go to prevent their officers from enforcing federal immigration laws. Supporters have hailed it as part of a broader effort by majority Democrats in the California Legislature to shield more than 2.3 million immigrants living illegally in the state.
Brown took the unusual step of writing a signing message in support of SB 54. He called the legislation a balanced measure that would allow police and sheriff’s agencies to continue targeting dangerous criminals, while protecting hardworking families without legal residency in the country.
“In enshrining these new protections, it is important to note what the bill does not do,” Brown wrote. “This bill does not prevent or prohibit Immigration and Customs Enforcement or the Department of Homeland Security from doing their own work in any way.”
Legal experts have said federal officials may try to block the law in court to keep it from being implemented. Some doubt such challenges would be successful, pointing to the 10th Amendment and previous rulings in which courts have found the federal government can’t compel local authorities to enforce federal laws.
On Thursday, Department of Justice spokesman Devin O’Malley declined to comment on the agency’s next move. Asked whether the administration would attempt to block the state law, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that federal officials “are spending every day we can trying to find the best way forward.
“The president will be laying out his responsible immigration plan over the next week,” she said. “And I hope that California will push back on their governor’s, I think, irresponsible decision moving forward.”
By Jazmine Ulloa for LOS ANGELES TIMES
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