Senate Bill 54 was introduced during the first day of the 2017 California legislative session as a direct response to President Donald Trumps stated plan to crack down on so-called sanctuary cities and step up immigration enforcement.
Though aimed at reassuring the states vast immigrant community that their lives wouldnt be upended, the law, also known as the California Values Act, also has become a political rallying point, with candidates on all sides of the immigration debate declaring positions against and for SB54.
But what is SB54? And, given some of the rhetoric surrounding SB54, what isnt it?
Here are some basics:
The premise of SB54 is that local and state law enforcement authorities may not use resources, including personnel or facilities, to investigate or arrest people for federal immigration enforcement purposes. The law builds on a 2013 state law called the California Trust Act, which prohibited local agencies from holding potentially deportable immigrants for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) unless those detainees had been convicted of serious or violent felonies, or misdemeanors that could be classified as felonies.
SB54 doesnt allow for holds any longer, but it does allow for the transfer of inmates on hundreds of offenses, including assault, battery, sexual abuse and exploitation, rape, crimes endangering children, burglary, robbery, theft, fraud, forgery, a crime resulting in death, gang-related offenses, some domestic violence offenses, drug and weapon-related offenses and felony (but not misdemeanor) driving under the influence convictions.
Here are some other things that law enforcement in California cant do under the new law:
- Ask someone about their immigration status or detain them solely because of their status.
- Hold someone in jail past their release date at ICEs request.
- Assist in arrests based on civil immigration warrants.
- Provide release dates or other information about a detainee unless that information is available to the public or the individual has a criminal conviction for one of the excepted crimes or has a qualifying criminal charge and has had a probable cause finding as to that charge.
- Provide office space for federal immigration authorities to use in local jail facilities.
- Cooperate with ICE in cases where an individual has been arrested, detained, or convicted for an offense that is a misdemeanor but was a felony prior to the passage of Prop. 47, which reduced penalties for some crimes in California.
Heres what law enforcement can do under SB54:
- Respond to notification and transfer requests from ICE when the individual has been convicted or charged with certain crimes specified by state law.
- Respond to notification requests if release dates and times are already publicly available.
- Permit ICE agents to interview someone in jail and prison if certain requirements are met.
- Participate in a joint law enforcement task force as long as the primary purpose is not immigration enforcement.
- 35,000 ask for their cities and counties to “opt out” of Californias sanctuary laws
- ACLU sues Los Alamitos over citys move to exempt itself from California sanctuary laws
- Los Alamitos approves its precedent-setting anti-sanctuary ordinance
- Sanctuary opponents travel from town to town, screaming an agenda
Sources: Sameer Ahmed, staff attorney, ACLU of Southern California and the office of Sen. Kevin de León.