California 'sanctuary' bill gets support from law enforcement, rebuke from Trump administration

 latimes.com  9/16/2017 8:20:00 PM   Gale Holland
Sheriff Jim McDonnell

Los Angeles law enforcement officials expressed support Saturday for the “sanctuary state” bill just passed by the Legislature, saying it will protect immigrants from federal enforcement as they leave jails without jeopardizing local agencies’ relationships with federal officials.

The legislation passed early Saturday drastically scaled back the version first introduced, the result of tough negotiations between Gov. Jerry Brown and the bill’s author, Sen. Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), in the final weeks of the legislative session. The bill must still be signed by the governor.

Los Angeles County Sheriff James McDonnell, an early and prominent opponent of the bill, said the changes had satisfied his concerns that it would hurt immigrants more than it would help them.

“While not perfect, [the bill] kept intact our ability to maintain partnerships with federal law enforcement officials who help us in the fight against gangs, drugs and human trafficking,” McDonnell said in a written statement. “It also retains the controlled access that the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement has to our jails.”

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said the bill built on 40 years of his department’s efforts to foster trust and reduce violent crime in immigrant communities.

“We are committed to reducing crime through community partnerships and constitutional policing,” said Beck, who supported earlier, strong versions of the legislation. The bill “enables us to continue abiding by these effective principles.”

The Trump administration, however, issued a stinging rebuke to the Legislature.

"Just last month another illegal alien allegedly killed a community volunteer, yet state lawmakers inexplicably voted today to return criminal aliens back onto our streets,” said Devin O'Malley, a spokesman for the U.S Department of Justice. “This abandonment of the rule of law by the Legislature continues to put Californians at risk, and undermines national security and law enforcement."

Pablo Alvarado, executive director of the National Day Labor Organizing Network, described the bill as only “incremental “ progress, but called on local law enforcement to fully implement its provisions.

“The scapegoating and persecution of immigrants is what has made our community unsafe,” Alvarado said. “This is only going to make our communities safer.”

Called the “California Values Act,” the sanctuary bill initially would have barred state and local enforcement from holding, questioning or sharing information with federal immigration agents about immigrants in custody unless the immigrants had violent or serious criminal convictions.

McDonnell had broken ranks with many other Los Angeles elected officials by opposing the initial legislation, arguing that if immigration agents could not pick up people from the jails, they would go looking for them in the streets, spreading fear and curtailing immigrants’ cooperation in criminal cases.

The amended bill would allow federal immigration authorities to keep working with state corrections officials and to continue entering county jails to question immigrants.The legislation would also permit police and sheriffs to share information and transfer people to immigration authorities if they have been convicted of one or more crimes from a list of 800 outlined in a previous law, the California Trust Act.

Under added provisions of the bill, however, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation would have to develop new standards to protect people held on immigration violations, and to allow immigrant inmates to receive credit toward their sentences for time served if they complete rehabilitation and educational programs while incarcerated.

The state attorney general’s office would have to develop recommendations that limit immigration agents' access to personal information. The attorney general also has broad authority under the state Constitution to ensure that police and sheriffs agencies follow SB 54’s provisions should it be signed into law.

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Twitter: @geholland

Times staff writer Jazmine Ulloa contributed to this story.

UPDATES:

1:20 p.m. This article was updated with addition comments from local and federal officials.

This article was originally published at 11:50 a.m.

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