Gov. Jerry Brown signs bill to provide more protection to undocumented California residents

Ketki Samel/Staff

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Amid growing federal threats, Californian undocumented residents are now more protected under a recently passed senate bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday.

Senate Bill 54 changes laws regarding how local and state police can interact with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, officers. The bill calls upon all public organizations in the state, including the University of California, to adopt the policies outlined in the bill.

Although many people have said SB 54 makes California the first sanctuary state, California State Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, who introduced the bill to the Senate, said in a press release that the bill will not provide full sanctuary. He added that while this bill will not stop ICE officers from coming to California, it will make the enforcement of federal immigration laws more difficult within the state.

“The California Values Act won’t stop ICE from trolling our streets — it will not provide full sanctuary — but it will put a kink in Trump’s perverse and inhumane deportation machine,” de León said in his press release. “California is building a wall of justice against President Trump’s xenophobic, racist and ignorant immigration policies.”

But Berkeley City Councilmember Kriss Worthington said this bill is less likely to impact Berkeley compared to other cities because Berkeley is already a sanctuary city.

“Berkeley has adopted stances … for many, many years,” Worthington said. “I don’t think this will make a big impact on Berkeley or the Bay Area so much, but I think it gives all the cities like us that were trying to reduce the … impacts of ICE … state support for what we’ve been trying to do.”

Worthington also said he thought the bill’s contents were weakened throughout the legislative process in order to gain support from the governor. He cited the list of exceptions for immigrants with previous felony convictions that would prevent them from being protected from ICE officers, which was later added to the original bill.

The exemption extends from individuals with misdemeanor charges to those who have committed violent felonies and lists other felonies such as torture, slavery or driving under the influence.

Brown said in his signing message for SB 54 that the bill does not stop federal agents from enforcing federal immigration policies.

“This bill does not prevent or prohibit (ICE) or the Department of Homeland Security from doing their own work in any way,” Brown said in the signing message. “They are free to use their own considerable resources to enforce federal immigration law in California.”

Campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore said the UC Office of the President typically handles how state legislation affects the university.

According to UC spokesperson Stephanie Beechem, the university has not taken an official stance on SB 54. She said, however, that the UC will continue to support and protect undocumented students on all UC campuses, citing a Sept. 12 letter from UC President Janet Napolitano and all the UC chancellors released in light of the repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA.

“UC is focused right now on providing the most robust support possible to Dreamers and undocumented members of the UC community,” Beechem said in an email.

Contact Sakura Cannestra at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @SakuCannestra.