WHAT HAPPENS WHEN CALIFORNIA BECOMES A SANCTUARY STATE?

The status of undocumented immigrants in the United States is an issue that continues to hit the headlines. While some of the states are in complete agreement with the President and are willing to get rid of undocumented immigrants, some states are more hesitant about this move. California is one such state. The Senate president, Kevin de León introduced a bill into the Senate aimed at making California a sanctuary state. This bill has received numerous support and approval especially in the senate and while it is yet to be passed into law in California, there are high hopes that it will be successful. But, what exactly does it mean when we speak of California being a sanctuary state?

Immigration laws are enforced by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Due to the amount of work facing this agency and the intimate nature of immigration laws, the agency invokes the aid of willing local law enforcement agencies to enforce the laws. The effect of the bill seeking to turn California into a sanctuary state is that it makes extremely difficult collaboration between California’s law enforcement agencies and the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement. This in essence makes it difficult for ICE to enforce immigration laws in the State. While the bill does not restrict ICE from independently enforcing federal immigration laws in the state, it makes the enforcement of the laws by ICE harder.

The bill prohibits the state’s law enforcement agencies from using agency or department money, facilities, property, equipment or personnel to investigate, interrogate, detain, detect or arrest people for immigration enforcement purposes. California’s police officers are also not allowed to enquire about the immigration status of a person or detain them because of their immigration status on request from ICE. Further, the police cannot release dates or other information, especially personal information, about a person that is not publicly available pursuant to a request from ICE. More importantly, pursuant to the bill, the police cannot allow federal government officials to interview a person in their custody without a court warrant.

The bill, however, does not restrict the ability of California’s law enforcement agencies to respond to federal immigration requests in relation to inmates convicted of violent or serious felonies. With the intention of protecting the state from criminals, the Board of Parole Hearings and the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is required by the bill to notify ICE at least six months before an undocumented immigrant, serving time for a violent or serious felony, is released from state prison.

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