"SB 54 will protect local police against a federal overreach that would have forced them to enforce immigration laws instead of carrying out the everyday duties that keep our communities safe," said Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles.)
The "Sanctuary State" bill is expected to be approved by the state Assembly. But, SB 54 was amended to say that undocumented immigrants who have been arrested for violent crimes, such as sexual battery, corporal punishment of a child, and assaulting an officer, can still have their information shared with federal immigration officials.
However, Jasmyne Cannick, a Los Angeles-based writer, feels that while California has passed several immigrant-friendly laws, they tend to focus on protecting undocumented Latino immigrants. And that doesn't tell the whole story. Not all undocumented immigrants are Latinos, she said.
"In theory, Democratic politicians and immigrant right activists will tell you that all immigrants matter but in practice, only one immigrant's voice is only ever represented, celebrated or invited to the table. Mass deportation and ICE raids under the Trump administration are not exclusive to Latinos," said Cannick in an editorial.
"Under Trump, more and more Africans and Caribbeans are finding it difficult to qualify for asylum or refugee status when they arrive at U.S. ports of entries—one of the primary ways that they are able to successfully stay in the country."
A 2015 Pew Research Center study shows there are more than 2.1 million Black immigrants living in the U.S. (with an estimated 575,000 undocumented in 2013), accounting for roughly 4.8 percent of the U.S. population—originating from African and Caribbean nations such as Jamaica, Haiti, Nigeria, and Kenya. In California alone, there are approximately 27,000 undocumented Black immigrants.
Kevin De León claims that under SB 54, officers will "maintain the trust of immigrant communities" for safety reasons; however, Cory Salzillo, legislative director for the California State Sheriff's Association, said law enforcement officials feel SB 54 puts restrictions on them. The organization represents 58 elected sheriffs across the state.
He said SB 54 puts law enforcement at risk of releasing dangerous criminals into the community. Salzillo also said the proposed law tends to offer more protection to criminals than to law-abiding citizens. "We're concerned it provides sanctuary to criminals," he said.
Sen. Jeff Stone (R-Temecula) also sided with the sheriffs' association in his criticism of SB 54.
"If it becomes law, SB 54 will protect dangerous, undocumented immigrants, who have already been convicted of serious crimes,” said Stone in an editorial published on his website.
Crimes that will not be covered if SB 54 becomes law include human trafficking, assault or battery on a police officer, child abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault, elder abuse, animal cruelty, solicitation of murder, DUI (involving bodily injury to another) and the transportation or sale of controlled substances.
By Manny Otiko | California Black Media