The California State Senate has proposed a bill that would severely limit state law enforcement’s engagement with federal immigration authorities.
California State Senator Kevin de León first introduced SB 54, called the “California Values Act,” last December. It begins by saying that “Immigrants are valuable and essential members of the California community.” It continues: “A relationship of trust between California’s immigrant community and state and local agencies is central to the public safety of the people of California.”
Unfortunately, the things SB 54’s authors and cosponsors consider necessary for maintaining a good relationship with its immigrant population will cause more harm than good. SB 54 will actually put the citizens of California, including its immigrants, in danger.
Among other things, SB 54 prohibits state authorities from notifying federal deportation authorities of “a person arrested for a violation of specified controlled substance” who is suspected to be an illegal immigrant. Shockingly, it also prevents state authorities from “assisting federal immigration authorities in the activities described in Section 1357(a)(3) of Title 8 of the United States Code.” This section of the U.S. Code empowers immigration authorities to carry out several actions, including making certain felony arrests and interrogating suspected criminal aliens.
A summary of the bill states that it does nothing to prohibit “any state or local law enforcement agency, including school police or security departments, from responding to a request from federal immigration authorities for information about a specific person’s previous criminal arrests or convictions.” However, SB 54 clearly prevents state authorities from being proactive and working to stop crime before it happens.
In short, this bill puts the burden of catching dangerous suspects almost completely on federal authorities. Though powerful and well-resourced, federal agencies are simply unable to cover all of the needed ground. Despite the claims made by SB 54’s proponents, proactive communication by state authorities is not counter to maintaining California’s values.