It looks like the state of California has decided to draw a line in the sand.
Governor Jerry Brown recently signed a law that all but classifies California as a “sanctuary state.” Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) reacted by threatening to conduct more raids to find, arrest, and deport illegal immigrants residing in the state.
California’s government might think they are protecting illegal immigrants by passing this law, but in reality, they could be placing more of their citizens in danger.
California Passes Its Own “Sanctuary Law”
SB-54, also known as the “California Values Act,” will place restrictions on how and when state and local police can work with federal immigration authorities on investigations and arrests. Put simply: it is designed to make it harder for ICE to find and arrest illegal immigrants.
Under the law, immigration holds are prohibited. State and local law enforcement agencies are no longer allowed to hold prisoners or detainees who are suspected of entering the country illegally so that ICE can deport or arrest them. In defense of the law, Governor Brown said:
“These are uncertain times for undocumented Californians and their families, and this bill strikes a balance that will protect public safety while bringing a measure of comfort to those families who are now living in fear every day.”
The new legislation does allow ICE agents to interview and arrest detainees in local jails even if they have a judicial warrant. The Trump administration has argued that warrants for these types of arrests are not viable.
According to The Hill, pro-immigrant activists argue that the new law is necessary to safeguard illegal immigrants against “excessive enforcement measures.” Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice Education Fund, said, “The California Values Act is a stinging rebuke to the nativism of President Trump and his drive to deport millions.”
Sharry and others view the new legislation as an act of defiance against the Trump administration. “Trump and Sessions are determined to bully state and local jurisdictions into turning immigrants over to ICE even though it diverts law enforcement from protecting the public,” he said. “With this and other steps, California is declaring that it wants no part in aiding and abetting Trump’s deportation force.”
While the sanctuary law prevents law enforcement agencies from collaborating with federal authorities, it does not keep ICE from conducting its operations in the state. As a matter of fact, ICE seems ready and willing to do just that.
ICE’s Response? More Immigration Raids
ICE seems undeterred by the passing of the California Values Act. On Friday, ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan warned that his agents would carry out workplace and neighborhood immigration raids since they can no longer work with local and state police departments. He argues that the law would “undermine public safety and hinder ICE from performing its federally-mandated mission.” He said:
“ICE will have no choice but to conduct at-large arrests in local neighborhoods and at work sites, which will inevitably result in additional collateral arrests, instead of focusing on arrests at jails and prisons where transfers are safer for ICE officers and the community.”
In addition to the increased raids, Homan has also stated the individuals they arrest will have to be detained in facilities outside of the state, which means they will be farther away from family and friends. He also stated that SB-54 would prompt more illegal immigrants to move to California to avoid being deported or arrested — which could compromise the safety of citizens residing in the area.
Since President Donald Trump took office, ICE has conducted numerous raids that have focused primarily on illegal immigrants who have committed other crimes while residing in the country. According to NPR, 75% of immigration raid arrests were for criminal convictions.
ICE has stated that the convictions were for crimes that included “homicide, aggravated sexual abuse, sexual assault of a minor, lewd and lascivious acts with a child, indecent liberties with a minor, drug trafficking, battery, assault, DUI, and weapons charges.” This fact lends credibility to Homan’s claims about the safety of Californians.
Governor Brown’s Approach May Have Unintended Consequences
Homan’s concerns are valid. Most of ICE’s efforts are focused on arresting or deporting illegal immigrants who have committed violent crimes. If California’s police departments are being forced to make it harder for ICE to detain these individuals, it could put lives in danger.
The fact that more illegal immigrants will move into the state is also disturbing — the criminals that ICE usually targets could find it easier to carry out their crimes in a state that protects them from deportation. Governor Brown could be putting his own citizens in danger for the sake of meaningless virtue signaling.
If ICE is relegated to conducting workplace and neighborhood raids, it will cause more commotion in the areas where they carry out their arrests. Perhaps this is what the leftists in California want. They could use the increased raids as a way to vilify those who wish to enforce our immigration laws.
Although it might seem like a prime opportunity to play on people’s emotions by conjuring images of cruel ICE agents forcibly separating immigrants from their families, the damage of passing this law will outweigh the political advantages.