California passes 'sanctuary state' bill to protect undocumented residents

Henry W. Coe State Park

California lawmakers are preparing to vote on a "sanctuary state" bill that would expand protections for people living in the country illegally who come into contact with law enforcement.

The Assembly's 49-25 vote sets up a vote in the Senate later Friday.

Early on Saturday, lawmakers gave last-minute support to a bill barring local governments from forcing undocumented immigrants to spend extra time in jail just to allow enforcement officers to take them into their custody.

But they will be prohibited from from transferring immigrants to federal authorities if they have committed only minor offenses. The bill also prohibits police and sheriff officers from inquiring about a person's immigration status. Jerry Brown worked with lawmakers to scale back parts of the legislation, which would have previously forbade federal immigration officers from questioning inmates in county jails.

The organization put out a release earlier this week, saying that "California's front-line law enforcement officers do not now engage in, and have no intention of engaging in, immigration enforcement in the field".

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California Senate leader Kevin de Leon said the bill will prevent local police from becoming "cogs in the Trump deportation machine".

The legislature also passed a package of bills aimed at increasing the availability of affordable housing in the notoriously expensive state, and approved a plan for spending $1.5 billion in income from the state's cap-and-trade air quality program, which raises money by selling businesses limited rights to emit pollutants.

Democrats used supermajorities in the state Capitol to pass the bill they viewed as important to highlighting California's stance on shielding its estimated 2.3 million undocumented immigrants from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, a former criminal prosecutor, said from "first-hand experience" that fear of deportation among immigrants actually makes cities less safe. The Republican-controlled body is seeking to bolster federal criminal and immigration law enforcement. The California Police Chiefs Association is now neutral on the bill, but the California State Sheriffs' Association still opposes it.

He says California would follow the lead of nine other states with similar restrictions.

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