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What are California's new pro-immigrant bills meant to do? Part 1

Nearly a quarter of all unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. live in California, along with innumerable immigrants here to visit, work temporarily, or become green card holders or citizens. The State Senate has just passed a suite of three bills protective of immigrants, including a so-called "sanctuary" bill that would prevent California law enforcement from acting as federal immigration enforcement personnel. What are the three bills that were passed and what are they attended to accomplish?

According to CNN, Senate Bill 6 creates a $12 million legal defense fund for immigrants which would provide them with paid legal counsel during removal proceedings, except for immigrants convicted of violent felonies. Currently, many immigrants being held for removal are there for allegedly committing nonviolent crimes, but even the innocent find it too hard to afford trial counsel.

SB 31 basically prohibits state or local agencies from cooperating with any religious or Muslim registry the federal government might create -- although nothing about a Muslim registry is explicitly mentioned.

SB 54 is the "sanctuary" bill. It bars state and local law enforcement personnel from cooperating with certain anti-immigrant or pro-deportation orders from the federal government. The bill was passed in response to the Trump Administration's crackdown against unauthorized immigrants, according to the LA Times. In other words, California law enforcement could not comply with ICE hold requests, detain immigrants merely for immigration purposes, or allow the use of any state or local assets or facilities for the purpose of immigration enforcement. It would also prohibit the collection of information on behalf of the USCIS.

What it does still allow, after adjustments were made to address some law enforcement concerns, is for law enforcement or corrections personnel to notify the USCIS when an immigrant convicted of a violent felony is released from jail or prison.

The main purpose of the law is not to shield unauthorized immigrants from deportation, but to preserve the integrity of the relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve. Moreover, says the bill's author Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, "Our precious local law enforcement resources will be squandered if police are pulled from their duties to arrest otherwise law-abiding maids, busboys, labors, mothers and fathers."

In our next post, we'll go into greater detail about SB 54, including arguments for and against it. As of now, the three bills are headed to the Assembly.

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