State bill forbidding cooperation between California law enforcement, federal immigration enforcement reaches state senate

Caragh McErlean/Senior Staff

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A state bill that would prohibit state law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration enforcement was approved Monday to reach the California State Senate.

If passed, Senate Bill 54, or SB 54 — also known as the California Values Act — will prohibit law enforcement agencies, including school police, from using public resources to “investigate, interrogate, detain, detect, or arrest persons for immigration enforcement purposes,” according to the bill text. The bill was introduced by Sen. Kevin de León and co-authored by Sen. Toni Atkins, Sen. Richard Pan and Sen. Scott Wiener.

“If law-abiding people fear the local police, they are far less likely to contact law enforcement to report a crime. That makes our communities less safe for everyone,” Atkins said in an emailed statement. “I am co-authoring SB 54 because I believe it’s better for our state if federal immigration laws are enforced by federal agents, not local police officers.”

Under SB 54, state law enforcement agencies would no longer be allowed to inquire into immigration statuses except in extenuating circumstances, nor would they be allowed to detain anyone in compliance with a hold request from federal immigration authorities.

The senate bill aims to establish a positive relationship between California immigrants and law enforcement agencies and distance state police from federal immigration enforcement, according to the bill text.

ASUC Senator Benyamin bin Mohd Yusof, an undocumented campus student, said that while he believes SB 54 would improve the relationship between law enforcement officers and undocumented communities, trust between the two entities would take longer to establish.

“One act is not going to fix that distrust that has been built up for years, given that many police officers have been responsible for separating families by cooperating with ICE in the past,” Yusof said.

The California State Sheriffs’ Association has expressed opposition to the bill. According to Sheriff Donny Youngblood, president of the California State Sheriffs’ Association, limiting the amount of communication between state police and their federal partners would make it harder for police to protect community members.

“We want to be able to do our job and protect the public that we’re sworn to protect,” Youngblood said.

Members of Berkeley College Republicans were unable to be reached for comment as of press time.

Leslie Salzinger, an associate professor in the campus sociology department, said in an email that she believes SB 54 provides state support for the campus’s commitment to the welfare of its students. Salzinger added that instructing campus police to turn in undocumented students would go against the campus’s “most fundamental principles and obligations.”

Yusof said although he thinks the California Values Act is a step in the right direction, there are many other obstacles that undocumented students face, such as finding a stable job.

“Invest in our education, in our employment and in our healthcare,” Yusof said. “That would be a true demonstration of the state of California — making sure that undocumented students are safe and sustained.”

Contact Amber Tang at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ambertang_dc.