Sacramento - Yesterday, the California Assembly and Senate both approved Senate Bill 54, the California Values Act. The bill, introduced by Senate President pro Tempore Kevin De León (D-Los Angeles), further cements the state’s commitment to protecting immigrants’ rights and ensuring the federal government does not co-opt local law enforcement into becoming an extension of a national “deportation force.” The bill now heads to the governor for his signature.
“This was a hard-fought effort but the end product was worth the fight,” said Jennie Pasquarella, Immigrants’ Rights Director with the ACLU of California. “With SB 54, California will meaningfully improve state law to keep families together and communities whole – and not a moment too soon as the Trump administration continues its draconian and indiscriminate crackdown on immigrants.”
In February, the Department of Homeland Security announced the administration’s new deportation guidelines to indicate that virtually all immigrants living in the country without proper documentation would be subject to deportation by the federal government. Since then, Californians and the rest of the country have born witness to the heartless arrest, detention and, in some cases, deportation of many undocumented immigrants that call the U.S. home.
The bill would prohibit local law enforcement from transferring people to federal immigration authorities, with some exceptions, and would protect against unconstitutional detentions by barring local law enforcement from holding someone in custody beyond their release date for immigration agents to come pick them up. Finally, the bill would ensure that California schools, hospitals, libraries, and courthouses remain safe and accessible spaces for everyone in our community.
“Now, more than ever, it is imperative that California law clearly distinguish state and local law enforcement officers from federal deportation agents,” said Pasquarella. “At a time when police data indicates that domestic violence and sexual assault reporting is plummeting among Latinos, California has a moral obligation to ensure law enforcement agents treat everyone fairly, no matter their background, what they look like, or where they are born.”
Studies indicate that fear of local law enforcement’s involvement in deportations has a chilling effect on victims and witnesses of crime and their willingness to come forward. For example, undocumented immigrants and their family members are less likely to call the police to report crimes for fear that any contact with police could result in their or a family member’s deportation.
“Driving witnesses and victims of crime underground does not make them or our communities safer,” added Pasquarella. “The California Values Act will make all Californians safer and keep California families together.”