With Congress moving to give the Trump Administration authority to withhold grants from sanctuary cities, California is moving to become a sanctuary state. Under Senate Bill 54, the “California Values Act,” state and local law enforcement would be prevented from cooperating with the federal government in the deportation of illegal immigrants. The bill would bar such actions even for undocumented immigrants who have committed serious crime (given a narrow definition of “serious felonies”).
State Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De Leon, D-Los Angeles, has rallied support around the bill as an anti-Trump measure. He insists that:
“Under constitutional threats from the reckless Trump administration, SB 54 protects state and local law enforcement and resources necessary to keep our communities safe. . . ICE is out to arrest and deport honest, hard-working parents who obey the laws and pay their taxes and owe allegiance to the red, white and blue. Arrests of undocumented immigrants with no previous criminal record are up 150 percent since Trump became president.”
However, it is hard to accept the safety premise given the definition of those with “serious felonies” under the Act. It was only after objections from police that the sponsors moves an amendment ordering the Board of Parole Hearings or the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to notify the federal government up to 60 days before the release of an undocumented immigrant with a violent felony conviction. The Act defines serious felonies by reference to Section 1192.7 of the Penal Code, which offers the following crimes:
(c) As used in this section, “serious felony” means any of the following:
(1) Murder or voluntary manslaughter; (2) mayhem; (3) rape; (4) sodomy by force, violence, duress, menace, threat of great bodily injury, or fear of immediate and unlawful bodily injury on the victim or another person; (5) oral copulation by force, violence, duress, menace, threat of great bodily injury, or fear of immediate and unlawful bodily injury on the victim or another person; (6) lewd or lascivious act on a child under 14 years of age; (7) any felony punishable by death or imprisonment in the state prison for life; (8) any felony in which the defendant personally inflicts great bodily injury on any person, other than an accomplice, or any felony in which the defendant personally uses a firearm; (9) attempted murder; (10) assault with intent to commit rape or robbery; (11) assault with a deadly weapon or instrument on a peace officer; (12) assault by a life prisoner on a noninmate; (13) assault with a deadly weapon by an inmate; (14) arson; (15) exploding a destructive device or any explosive with intent to injure; (16) exploding a destructive device or any explosive causing bodily injury, great bodily injury, or mayhem; (17) exploding a destructive device or any explosive with intent to murder; (18) any burglary of the first degree; (19) robbery or bank robbery; (20) kidnapping; (21) holding of a hostage by a person confined in a state prison; (22) attempt to commit a felony punishable by death or imprisonment in the state prison for life; (23) any felony in which the defendant personally used a dangerous or deadly weapon; (24) selling, furnishing, administering, giving, or offering to sell, furnish, administer, or give to a minor any heroin, cocaine, phencyclidine (PCP), or any methamphetamine-related drug, as described in paragraph (2) of subdivision (d) of Section 11055 of the Health and Safety Code, or any of the precursors of methamphetamines, as described in subparagraph (A) of paragraph (1) of subdivision (f) of Section 11055 or subdivision (a) of Section 11100 of the Health and Safety Code; (25) any violation of subdivision (a) of Section 289 where the act is accomplished against the victim’s will by force, violence, duress, menace, or fear of immediate and unlawful bodily injury on the victim or another person; (26) grand theft involving a firearm; (27) carjacking; (28) any felony offense, which would also constitute a felony violation of Section 186.22; (29) assault with the intent to commit mayhem, rape, sodomy, or oral copulation, in violation of Section 220; (30) throwing acid or flammable substances, in violation of Section 244; (31) assault with a deadly weapon, firearm, machinegun, assault weapon, or semiautomatic firearm or assault on a peace officer or firefighter, in violation of Section 245; (32) assault with a deadly weapon against a public transit employee, custodial officer, or school employee, in violation of Sections 245.2, 245.3, or 245.5; (33) discharge of a firearm at an inhabited dwelling, vehicle, or aircraft, in violation of Section 246; (34) commission of rape or sexual penetration in concert with another person, in violation of Section 264.1; (35) continuous sexual abuse of a child, in violation of Section 288.5; (36) shooting from a vehicle, in violation of subdivision (c) or (d) of Section 12034; (37) intimidation of victims or witnesses, in violation of Section 136.1; (38) criminal threats, in violation of Section 422; (39) any attempt to commit a crime listed in this subdivision other than an assault; (40) any violation of Section 12022.53; (41) a violation of subdivision (b) or (c) of Section 11418; and (42) any conspiracy to commit an offense described in this subdivision.
Roughly 90 percent of undocumented arrestees have previous criminal records for crimes like drug offenses, domestic violence, DUI, sex crimes, battery, weapons violations, assault, burglary, fraud, vehicle theft, arson, cruelty to a child, robbery, obstructing justice, property damage, larceny, escape, manslaughter, prostitution, trespassing, incest, and receipt of stolen property. Some felons convicted of these crimes would be protected under the law despite crimes involving weapons or some sex offenses or battery or burglary. I can see the policy argument on both sides of this issue, but I have a hard time with the idea of letting an undocumented person to return to society after committing some of the uncovered crimes, including human trafficking or some forms of assault with a deadly weapon.
Former Attorney General Eric Holder has endorsed the bill. Holder was hired by the legislature.
Notably, Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a similar bill in 2012 for failing to include many of the crimes which are still absent in this bill.