California Officially Becomes a Sanctuary State

By Iván Mejía, EFE Services

California has officially become a “sanctuary state” for immigrants in the country without authorization under a new law that went into effect New Year’s Day.

Under the law, police forces in California can no longer ask residents about their immigration status or participate in coordinated actions with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Police will now only hold suspects who have committed certain crimes, and whom authorities can prove they have a lawful detainer that allows them to keep the suspect in custody.

“Bringing immigrants out from the shadows is not only beneficial for the entire state of California, it is the right thing to do,” California State Senate President Pro Temp Kevin de León told EFE Services.

De León introduced SB54, also known as the California Sanctuary State Bill, which he said sends “a message to Washington and the rest of the nation” that California will not be “part of politics promoted by arrogance.”

The bill was signed last October by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown. The law prohibits local and state police from investigating, questioning or detaining people in California soley because they are suspected of being undocumented.

The law, which leaves many of the tasks related to immigration in the hands of the federal government, helps “preserve trust” between local authorities and the immigrant community, which according to De Leon is “critical for public safety.”

As of Monday, ICE agents will need a court order to raid workplaces or access an employee’s record. University authorities will not longer be able to cooperate with immigration officials and property owners may no longer disclose the citizenship of their tenant’s federal agents.

Being a sanctuary state “means that throughout the state immigrant families, especially those who are undocumented, can live a little bit more safely,” Francisco Garcia with Holy Faith Episcopal Church of Inglewood told EFE.

Although California is not the first to declare itself a “sanctuary state” – a title held by Oregon since 1987 – it is the first state with a large population of undocumented immigrants, at least 2 million people, that has become a refuge for undocumented immigrants.

There are about 200 cities and counties in the U.S. that have been declared “sanctuaries,” including San Diego and San Francisco, New York, Boston and Chicago, among others. The sanctuary designation applies to the 11 million immigrants estimated to be living in the country without permission.

California’s sanctuary bill is a direct response to President Trump’s continued demeaning of undocumented immigrants.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Session has said “sanctuary cities” are the “best friends” of drug traffickers, smugglers, and gang members.

Last November, San Francisco Federal Judge William Orrick permanently blocked Trump’s executive order denying funds to jurisdictions that do not cooperate with ICE.

The controversy was revived days later when a jury declared an undocumented Mexican not guilty in the death of the Kate Steinle, a case that had been used by Trump to defend his plan to build the border wall and attack “sanctuary cities.”

The sanctuary movement has been supported by U.S. churches since the 1980s, when they sheltered refugees fleeing civil wars in Central America, recalled Garcia, a leader of the Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE) organization, which brings together Christians, Muslims and Jews.

“As long as we do not have a fair immigration reform, that includes everyone, there will be a need for sanctuary churches,” said Garcia.

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January 5, 2018  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.


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