Southern California Assembly members divided on immigration bill

Published on August 23rd, 2017

FILE — In this Aug. 31, 2016 file photo the dome of the state Capitol glows in the early evening in Sacramento, Calif. California lawmakers return Monday, Aug. 21 , from a monthlong break with a busy agenda that includes tackling the state’s housing crisis and deciding whether to make California a statewide sanctuary for people living illegally in the U.S.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, file)  

By Brenda Gazzar, Los Angeles Daily News, 
Jeff Horseman, The Press-Enterprise and 
Martin Wisckol, The Orange County Register
August 22, 2017
Los Angeles Daily News

The bill, SB 54, passed the state Senate in April. It awaits action in the Assembly, which reconvened this week and will stay in session until mid-September.
Known as the California Values Act or “the sanctuary state bill,” the legislation seeks to largely prohibit the use of state and local public resources to aid federal immigration agents in deportation actions. Although the draft bill is expected to be revised, it would severely curb cooperation between federal authorities and local and state police on immigration matters.
Democratic lawmakers, who hold a supermajority in Sacramento, introduced the bill in defiance of President Donald Trump, a Republican who has clamped down on illegal immigration through his executive orders. Democrats and advocates for immigrants say Trump’s actions will lead to families being ripped apart. They note that many undocumented immigrants have lived here for decades without committing serious crimes.

FILE In this Jan. 25, 2017 file photo protesters hold signs as they yell at a rally outside of City Hall in San Francisco. California lawmakers return Monday, Aug. 21 , from a month long break with a busy agenda that includes tackling the state’s housing crisis and deciding whether to make California a statewide sanctuary for people living illegally in the U.S. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, file).

The bill’s critics contend it shelters lawbreakers and would harm public safety. Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell has voiced concern that SB 54 would allow deportable immigrants convicted of crimes to be released back into their communities where they can potentially re-offend.
That’s partly because it would prohibit Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, agents from interviewing inmates or picking up inmates at jails, with certain exceptions, unless the agency obtains a judicial warrant.
There already are state laws on the books that limit cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration officers. Further limiting ICE access to jails, McDonnell argues, would prompt ICE to arrest more people out in the community who haven’t been convicted of crimes, thus eroding trust in law enforcement.
In an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Gov. Jerry Brown said he wanted to see some changes. The governor’s signature is required for SB 54 to become law.
“The goal here is to block and not to collaborate with abuse of federal power,” Brown said. “It is a balancing act. It does require some sensitivity.
“And that’s why I take a more nuanced and careful approach to dealing with what is a difficult problem. Because you do have people who are not here legally, they’ve committed crimes. They have no business in the United States in the manner in which they’ve come and conducted themselves subsequently.”
Brown’s office has not specified what changes the governor is seeking.
A broad liberal coalition called Building the California Dream Alliance recently launched an advertising campaign and conducted district visits targeting five Democratic Assembly members who were undecided on SB 54. The paid campaign ran in Southern California newspapers and websites.
Three Southern California lawmakers who have so far remained mum on the bill were among those singled out by the campaign: Sabrina Cervantes, D-Riverside; Jacqui Irwin, D-Thousand Oaks; and Al Muratsuchi, D-Torrance.
SB 54 “is about sending a message to immigrants and their families that they are welcome here in California,” said Natasha Minsker, director of the ACLU of California Center for Advocacy and Policy, which is part of the coalition.
“This is about saying that California values support immigrant communities, and that we are going to stand up against the hate that’s coming from the Trump administration.”
Last week, about a dozen coalition activists visited an open house event hosted by Cervantes sporting T-shirts that urged her to support the bill. It was the sixth action by the coalition in her district. A spokesman for Cervantes said she has not yet taken a position on SB 54.
While Cervantes is a Democrat, her Riverside County district could be targeted next year by Republicans hoping to erase the Democratic supermajority in Sacramento. She already faces criticism for her vote this year for a transportation bill that will raise California’s gas tax by 12 cents a gallon.
With Republicans pretty much unified against SB 54 and moderate Democrats on the fence, the bill’s passage in the Assembly is not a certainty. A spokesman for Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Paramount, said the speaker “does not take positions on legislation until they reach the Assembly floor.”
A spokeswoman for Assemblyman Matt Dababneh, D-Encino, said he is still evaluating SB 54, although he “has been very clear that local law enforcement should be focused on protecting our families rather than engaging in enforcing federal immigration laws or breaking up families in our community.”
Members of the Assembly’s Los Angeles County delegation who support SB 54 include Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, D-Glendale.
“Fear of (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) can have a chilling effect on a community that puts everyone at risk,” Friedman said. “SB 54 keeps our local law enforcement resources focused on our community.”

Orange County’s Assembly delegation is largely opposed to SB 54, although Assemblyman Tom Daly, D-Anaheim, is undecided.
Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton, said SB 54 “creates serious public safety concerns, and I am unable to support this bill. The United States is, and will remain, the land of opportunity. Nonetheless, we have an obligation to ensure our Orange County communities are safe.”
Assemblyman Matthew Harper, R-Huntington Beach, said opposing the bill is “an easy call for mainstream legislators, since SB 54 would lead to further waves of illegal immigration.”
Assemblyman Steven Choi, R-Irvine, an immigrant, said SB 54 “is another example of California’s defiance and undermining of the federal government and its authority …”
“The United States is under attack from our enemies to destroy us,” Choi said. “As a country, the United States needs to maintain its integrity for our own survival by keeping the country’s border laws and order as well as internal law and order.”
Assemblyman Travis Allen, R-Huntington Beach, a GOP candidate for governor, called the bill “an illegal and dangerous attempt to silence our law enforcement and endanger our citizens.”
“There is a huge disconnect on this issue between the California Democrat politicians running the state and the citizens of California,” Allen added. “The majority of Californians from every ethnic group and political party clearly understand sanctuary policies for what they are: safe spaces for criminal illegal immigrants.”
Staff Writer Katy Murphy of the Bay Area News Group contributed to this report. 

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