With the federal government vastly expanding who is considered a priority for deportation, the California State Senate has approved a bill that increased protections for immigrants. The measure prohibits local law enforcement agencies from using resources to investigate, detain, report or arrest people for immigration violations, the New York Times reports. Supporters say the law, which could make California the first “sanctuary state,” would prevent immigrants who face no criminal charges from being turned over for deportation. If approved, the law could directly contradict federal directives, putting local law enforcement agencies in the difficult position of deciding whether to obey Sacramento or Washington. Legal battles are likely.
“The federal government is going to have to step in and decide if this is worth a lawsuit, because I am not sure what we can do,” said Donny Youngblood, the sheriff in Kern County and the president of the California State Sheriffs’ Association, which is lobbying against the measure. “All we are doing is providing information to the federal government so that they can do their job. To restrict that doesn’t make sense.” While California is moving more quickly than any other state, bills that restrict cooperation with immigration officials have been introduced elsewhere, including in Illinois, Maryland, Nevada and New York. In Vermont last month, Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, signed a measure that bars state and local police officers from enforcing immigration laws without his approval and prohibits the collection of personal information, including immigration status and religion, for any kind of registry that could be used by federal officials. If enacted, the California law could have a significant effect on federal immigration enforcement. At least half of immigrants living in the U.S. who are deported come from local jails and prisons.