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California Values Act Clears Key Hurdle, May Get Vote This Friday

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SB 54, the California Values Act, may come to a vote as early as this Friday, after state Democratic leaders cleared a key hurdle and amended the bill in order to bring police chiefs — and Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown — onboard.

SB 54 originally would have strictly limited the ability of state and local law enforcement officers to cooperate and share information with federal immigration agents, but police chiefs said they needed more leeway to work with federal authorities on projects like task forces and the handoffs of certain immigrants. Immigration advocates have long said that communities are safer when local police are less involved in the work of immigration enforcement, as it leads immigrants to fear interactions with officers. After the latest compromise, SB 54 will allow local police to transfer immigrants to ICE if they’ve been convicted of one of some 800 crimes.

That allowed police chiefs to drop their opposition to SB 54, and the final version will allow them to cooperate on some federal investigations while understanding that local officers “should not be used to assist in mass deportations,” as Gardena Police Chief Ed Medrano, president of the California Police Chiefs Association, said.

Immigration advocates also applauded the latest development for the bill. “It’s not perfect but there are some reassuring things,” Cynthia Buiza, executive director of the California Immigrant Policy Center. “This is a step in the right direction.”

California Senate Leader Kevin de León, who sponsored SB 54, said that the bill will protect California’s communities:

Senate Bill 54, the California Values Act, continues to provide landmark protections for our undocumented community and prevents our state and local law enforcement resources from being diverted to tear families apart.  California will protect our communities from the Trump administration’s radical and hateful immigration policy agenda.

SB 54 will ensure that state and local police are not diverted from protecting our communities in order to enforce federal immigration laws. The protections provided by SB 54 will also ensure undocumented residents can report crimes and assist in prosecutions without fear of deportation.

With the President’s decision to rescind DACA and stepped up ICE incursions into our neighborhoods, SB 54 is needed now more than ever.

The bill, assuming it is passed, will be another marker of state leaders’ determination to resist the Trump Administration’s overreaches, especially when it comes to Trump’s Deportation Force. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has repeatedly tried to crack down on so-called “sanctuary cities” — the Administration deems the entire state of California to be one — and it was a San Francisco lawsuit that blocked Trump’s January executive order against such jurisdictions. California leaders are filing two lawsuits against Trump’s decision to end DACA / deferred action for Dreamers, and the state has approved $30 million in aid for DACA recipients as they face an uncertain future.