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California Blazes Trail With Idea to Become an Immigrant Sanctuary

SanctuaryCitiesCaliforniaAP7-feature750SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Democrats in the California Senate ramped up their fight Tuesday against President Donald Trump, advancing bills that would create a statewide sanctuary for people in the country illegally, provide money to pay lawyers for immigrants facing deportation and hamper any attempt to create a Muslim registry.

The moves in the nation’s largest state — home to an estimated 2.3 million immigrants without legal authorization — came days after Trump launched his crackdown on immigration and sanctuary cities across the nation.

The city of San Francisco sued Trump on Tuesday, claiming his executive order that would cut funding from sanctuary cities is unconstitutional and a “severe invasion of San Francisco’s sovereignty.”

Victor Alvarez, discusses the hardships to his family after his father was deported by immigration authorities last February, during a news conference, Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017, in Sacramento, Calif. Alvarez testified in support of SB54, by state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, that would prohibit local law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration authorities. The committee passed de Leon's bill, that if approved by the Legislature and signed by the governor, could create a border-to-border sanctuary in the nation's largest state. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Victor Alvarez, discusses the hardships to his family after his father was deported by immigration authorities last February, during a Jan. 31 news conference in Sacramento, Calif. Alvarez testified in support of SB 54, by state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, that would prohibit local law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration authorities. AP Photo by Rich Pedroncelli

San Francisco receives about $1.2 billion a year in federal funding for services that include housing, health and social services, and homelessness.

In Sacramento, Democrats on the state Senate Public Safety Committee voted along party lines to prohibit state and local law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration authorities.

“We want to make sure that police officers don’t abandon their beat and go enforce immigration laws,” said Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon of Los Angeles, author of the statewide sanctuary measure.

Republicans and law enforcement groups said the bill would make it harder for authorities to work together to fight crime.

“I think this bill is making it that much more difficult for the federal authorities to get the most dangerous criminals that we want to deport to keep our communities safe,” said Sen. Jeff Stone, a Temecula Republican who voted against the measure.

Hours after the sanctuary legislation advanced, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved two other measures that take direct aim at Trump’s policies. While there is sanctuary support in the state, opposition exists in other parts of the country and among lawmakers in the U.S. Congress.

In another party-line vote, Democrats backed legislation to provide an unspecified amount of money for lawyers to represent people facing deportation.

Former Oakland Mayor Jean Quan joins others in urging lawmakers on Jan. 31 to approve a proposed bill to prohibit local law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration authorities in Sacramento, Calif. AP Photo by Rich Pedroncelli
Former Oakland Mayor Jean Quan joins others in urging lawmakers on Jan. 31 to approve a proposed bill to prohibit local law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration authorities in Sacramento, Calif. AP Photo by Rich Pedroncelli

Several lawmakers, however, expressed deep reservations about creating a new program for immigrants while existing legal-aid programs are underfunded.

The committee also passed a bill prohibiting state and local government officials from assisting in the creation of a possible Muslim registry. Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, said he wrote the bill in response to statements by Trump during his presidential campaign.

“In our country’s darkest moments, we have discriminated against whole groups of people,” Lara said.

Months ago, Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”

The president last week signed an executive order temporarily halting migration from seven Muslim-majority countries.

California voted overwhelmingly against Trump in November, and Democratic legislative leaders and Gov. Jerry Brown have loudly vowed to resist the Republican president.

Their actions stand in stark contrast to more conservative states. In Texas, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott instructed lawmakers Tuesday to send him a bill that punishes local governments that don’t cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

Many of California’s largest cities — including Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento — already have sanctuary policies that prohibit police from cooperating with immigration agents.

SB 54 would extend those policies statewide, prohibiting police officers and jailers from arresting or detaining people solely for immigration violations unless a judge issues a warrant.

State and local law enforcement agencies could not help investigate immigration violations, inquire about someone’s immigration status or provide addresses to immigration officers.

Law enforcement databases would be off limits for immigration investigations, though police officials could still discuss someone’s previous arrests and convictions with immigration agents.

The legislation also seeks to limit immigration enforcement activity at schools, courthouses and shelters.

Democrats said the bill is needed to protect people such as Victor Alvarez, a U.S. citizen who told the committee that his father was pulled over for a broken taillight and deported hours later.

“Since my dad was deported the whole family has been suffering,” Alvarez said. “I had to put school on hold just to support the family.”

The sanctuary legislation now goes to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

It’s unclear how it might fare if it reaches the Assembly. Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Paramount, has resisted Trump’s policies, but the Assembly also has a bloc of moderate lawmakers in swing districts who have balked at legislation favored by the more liberal Senate.

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Jonathan Cooper of The Associated Press wrote this report. Equal Voice News contributed to it. About the top image: Protesters gather at San Francisco International Airport on Jan. 28 to denounce President Donald Trump’s executive order that bars citizens of seven predominantly Muslim nations from entering the U.S. AP Photo by Marcio Jose Sanchez


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