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Border & Immigration

State Senate Approves Bill To Make California A 'Sanctuary State'

California is one step closer to becoming the nation's first "sanctuary state." Lawmakers in the state Senate voted along party lines Monday to pass a bill that would prevent state and local law enforcement from using their resources to aid federal immigration enforcement.

The bill's author Senator Pro Tem Kevin De Leon faced opposition from Republican lawmakers who argued the bill would shield felons from deportation by limiting cooperation between local law enforcement and ICE.

Speaking on the Senate floor De Leon rejected those arguments:

"Local law enforcement can fully participate in criminal task forces when it comes to human trafficking, when it comes to drug cartels, when it comes to the issue of marijuana. They will comply with judicial warrants," De Leon said.

A few hours before state lawmakers voted in the Senate, sanctuary bill supporters rallied in Capitol Park.

RELATED: San Diego Area Mayors Organize Opposition To ‘Sanctuary State’ Bill

Araceli Zarate works at a Catholic church in San Jose. She said community members are fearful of being picked up by immigration officers.

"A lady came to my office and told me her husband told her, ‘Don’t go out – only if you need it. Stay in.’ I’m like ‘oh my god,’ – it’s like being in jail but in your home," Zarate said. "We cannot live like that."

Senate Democrats argued President Trump's Executive Order, which expanded deportation criteria, has had a chilling effect on undocumented Californians. They say they are now less likely to report crimes or testify in court.

RELATED: San Diego Professor Finds Sanctuary Counties Are Safer And Economically Stronger

Senator Scott Wiener of San Francisco praised the sanctuary bill.

"We want our communities to be safe," Weiner said. "And this is how we make our communities safe. By making it clear to our immigrant neighbors that it is safe for them to call the police."

RELATED: Chula Vista To Consider Declaring Itself Sanctuary City

Republican state Senator Jeff Stone of Riverside County balked at the notion that the bill was aimed at "protecting hard-working immigrants."

"This bill is designed to make California a sanctuary for certain dangerous criminals," Stone said. "Why would we want to inhibit in any way the federal government from deporting dangerous undocumented criminals - period?"

De Leon responded by saying Californians, both residents and undocumented, who are prosecuted and found guilty of a crime will serve their time in state prison. The bill requires FBI, ICE and Homeland Security be notified 60 days before undocumented felons are released from prison.

The bill now moves on the state Assembly.

RELATED: Attorney General Orders Crackdown On ‘Sanctuary Cities,’ Threatens Holding Funds

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