Activists Gather to Voice Support for California's "Sanctuary State" Bill

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A group of activists gathered at Los Angeles City Hall today to voice support for California's “sanctuary state'' bill on the eve of the state Assembly's scheduled vote that could send it to Gov. Jerry Brown's desk.

SB 54, known as the California Values Act, provides protections for immigrants who are in the country illegally, but also was altered recently at the request of Brown to give local law enforcement more freedom to work with federal immigration officials and to hold an individual for federal authorities if they have been convicted of a felony or some other serious crimes.

The activists -- estimated at about 50 in number -- gathered on the south lawn steps of City Hall and included representatives of California-based Courage Campaign, SEIU United Service Workers West, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Long Beach Immigration Rights Coalition, LA Voice, and the California Immigrant Policy Center.

“We're not criminals, we are hard working communities that are going to stand firm and strong with all the love in the world to say that we are going to be here and we are going to stay,'' said Sandra Diaz, vice president and political director for SEIU West, a union representing about 45,000 janitors, security officers, airport workers and other employees.

The bill was introduced in reaction to President Donald Trump's actions and speech on illegal immigration, including a vow to increase deportations.

Trump also has threatened to cut off federal funding to “sanctuary'' jurisdictions -- although there is no legal definition of the term -- which limit cooperation with the federal government on immigration enforcement.

Declaring a community a “sanctuary'' city or state has become a way to openly defy Trump.

While a number of cities -- including San Francisco and Santa Ana, -- have declared themselves a sanctuary city, Oregon is the only state that has taken on the identity, doing so in 1987.

Two Los Angeles City councilmen also recently introduced a sanctuary state resolution, although it was more of a symbolic move because the city already limits its cooperation on immigration enforcement.

The bill prohibits local or state law enforcement officers from questioning people about their immigration status, arresting people on civil immigration warrants, or acting as deputized immigration enforcement officers.

The bill would restrict local law enforcement officers' ability to notify federal immigration agents about the status of someone who is being held, but includes a list of serious crimes that allows them to provide a notification.

The new version allows federal agents to interview those accused of violent crimes in local jails but does not allow them to have permanent office space in jails.

Despite the changes to the bill, the activists at City Hall voiced strong support for it.

“We believe that the final version of the bill that was just released continues to advance protections for immigrants in the entire state,'' said Luis Nolasco, a community engagement and policy advocate at the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.

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