By Joe Guzzardi
August 30, 2017
California Governor Jerry Brown hinted to Meet the Press recently that he had concerns about the California Values Act, SB 54, the bill that would severely limit cooperation between local law enforcement and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. SB 54’s author, California Senate President pro tempore Kevin de Leon, an unbending illegal immigrant advocate, proudly described the bill as “freezing out ICE.” Federal immigration authorities would be barred from entering most public places even if known criminals were present.
And indeed, Brown, despite his harsh criticism of President Trump’s immigration enforcement agenda and his vow to defend to the hilt California’s estimated three million illegal aliens, submitted a series of amendments to SB 54 that its supporters claim water down the original version.
Brown’s SB 54 revision allows communication between ICE and local jails that would create avenues not found in the original draft to remove aliens. Among those that would, as part of Brown’s amendments, become deportable are those convicted of lesser offenses like minor drug offenses or tax evasion. Brown’s document lists more than 800 nonviolent crimes that could make the perpetrator subject to removal.
Of greatest concern to advocates is that Brown proposes to continue the Criminal Alien Program which allows ICE agents access to local jails. The program has effectively identified the majority of California’s successfully deported criminal aliens, and pro-immigration groups want it ended.
Until Brown intervened, the California Assembly expected to vote on the bill soon. But Brown’s monkey wrench will likely delay the process, and puts SB 54’s passage in doubt. Assembly Republicans solidly oppose SB 54; Democrats in moderate districts are on the fence, and perhaps most influential in the statewide debate, California’s sheriffs argue that SB 54 endangers communities, and they’re actively lobbying against it. All but one of California’s elected sheriffs have come out against SB 54, and the California State Sheriffs’ Association has taken a strong position against the bill.
What motivated Brown to propose such dramatic changes to SB 54 is unknown. Brown may have feared that SB 54 in its original form is too lenient, and could lead to California’s loss of millions in federal funding, something the cash-strapped state can’t afford. Indisputably, sanctuary cities violate federal law, and put their federal funding at risk, a fact that the Department of Justice’s Inspector General confirmed in a memorandum last year.
Or Brown may have asked himself the question SB 54’s adversaries pose, and not liked his answer: “Sanctuary for who?” The honest reply: Sanctuary is for convicted aliens who, once released, often commit more crimes against citizens.
While Kate Steinle is the highest profile sanctuary city victim, a 31-year-old woman shot and killed on a popular, heavily trafficked San Francisco tourist venue in broad daylight, dozens of other murders enabled by non-cooperation policies have received less national attention. Recently, Sonoma County ignored an ICE detainer, then released an illegally present man who had been arrested for assaulting his girlfriend. Three weeks later, the freed alien beat her to death.
Given the ample evidence of the deadly toll released criminals have taken on innocent citizens, Americans overwhelmingly oppose sanctuary cities; 80 percent of those polled want criminal aliens turned over to federal authorities.
Whether the Assembly will agree to termed-out Brown’s amendments is doubtful. Brown’s next move, then, is to veto SB 54, and establish that his legacy is that he put public safety ahead of bad public policy.