The California State Senate passed a bill penned by California State Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, which would prioritize state funding allocated to the expansion of state and county prisons to those that are not leasing space to other parties, such as the federal government.
Skinner said the bill, titled Retaining Jail Funding For Local Needs, or SB 630, aims to focus limited state funding on prisons that are overcrowded with local offenders. Some sources have noted that this bill incentivizes jails to not form contracts with the federal government, highlighting that this change could lead to a decrease in partnership between state and local jails with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.
“We have limited state funding and we as a state, both the voters and legislators, have been reforming our criminal justice policies so that we are increasing the number of offenders who are being housed on a county level,” Skinner said. “We want to make sure then that if we’re using state funds to expand these facilities, that these facilities are being used for state needs rather than federal needs.”
The bill protects state resources from being used counter to the state’s stance on immigration through supporting ICE, according to a press release from Richmond Mayor Tom Butt, a supporter of the bill.
Outgoing ASUC Senator Benyamin bin Mohd Yusof said this is a step toward California divesting from the demands of the federal government.
“I do think in the long run … it could lead to the divestment of the state of California from ICE, which should be a long term goal for all immigrant rights activists,” Yusof said.
Yusof also noted that this could set a precedent for other states whose policies do not align with that of the federal government. Yusof said possible retaliation from the federal government does not outweigh the necessity to be a role model on the topic as well as the confidence of state legislators.
Despite the argument that the bill incentivizes against leasing space, Skinner clarified that the resolution does not have any prohibitions against contracting and that if a prison has extra space open for lease, the prison is still able to create a contract.
Incoming ASUC Senator Juniperangelica Cordova-Goff agreed that the fear of retaliation does not outweigh the necessity of separation from the federal government, adding that she hopes California continues to separate farther from the federal administration’s goals.
“If it is a matter of what fears are more valid, one fear of being defended as a state or as (a) university or any public system, we should be centering the fears of undocumented folks (being) incarcerated or deported,” Cordova-Goff said.