Two Years Later, Loopholes Remain In California's Sanctuary Law
KPBS Midday Edition Segments / November 1, 2019
Speaker 1: 00:00 It was touted as the strongest sanctuary state law in the country. Two years ago, the California legislature passed Senate bill 54, which was designed to limit cooperation between local law enforcement and immigration authorities. But a new report finds local agencies continue to collaborate with ice and border patrol. KPBS is max Rivlin. Adler has been following the story and joins us now. Max, welcome. Hi. Remind us when Senate bill 54 said about what law enforcement agencies could and could not do when it comes to working with immigration officials.
Speaker 2: 00:32 Right. So SB 54 or known as the California values act, which was passed right in the aftermath of the Trump election, didn't necessarily say that local law enforcement agencies couldn't work with federal immigration authorities, but had tried to really cut down on the level of cooperation and the access that, um, federal immigration authorities had to people in the custody of local law enforcement. So that includes detaining people and handing them over to ice if ice puts in a request, uh, on several charges. That being said, there were carve out. So, you know, so it wasn't that this was ending cooperation entirely. There was definitely just a limiting factor that SB 54 made possible, uh, this included, um, that police could no longer be used as debt, as immigration agents. It cut down on when local law enforcement could join task forces along with federal agencies and specifically whether those taskforces focused on domestic immigration enforcement as opposed to larger crimes. And the other thing would be cutting down on actually having dedicated ice facilities inside of County jail. So that would be an office space that ice officers were able to work out of while they went and interviewed people who were being held in County jails as to their immigration status.
Speaker 1: 01:49 So how are San Diego law enforcement agencies doing when it comes to implementing the sanctuary state law?
Speaker 2: 01:55 Some are doing better than others and some we don't really know about. Uh, places like Carlsbad haven't really shared how they've updated their policies or told advocates and, and interested parties what they're doing to comply. Others are much, uh, stronger and have updated their policies really quickly and have conformed to the law. Um, and some are actively evading the law and not following kind of, kind of following the letter of the law but not necessarily the spirit of the law. So for instance, in San Diego, the Sheriff's department shortly after, they were basically kind of limited in the amount of people they could hand over directly to ice, began posting online the release dates of everyone in jail custody and basically making it much easier for ice to go and find somebody who's being released from jail, either picking them up in the parking lot or literally as they walk out the door of County jail.
Speaker 1: 02:54 The law also prohibited law enforcement agencies from providing dedicated space to ice agents inside their facilities. Is the Sheriff's office complying with that part of SB 54 they are
Speaker 2: 03:05 complying again in the S in the actual letter of the law, which says there is no longer an office that is used by ice, uh, specifically and exclusively, but there is a shared workspace that ice can come, bring their own computers to log onto the wifi on. So again, you've found these, uh, local law enforcement agencies that are interested in continuing their cooperation with ice, have found their loopholes. And again, SB 54 did not say that there could no longer be any cooperation with ice. It just meant to limit it, um, that cooperation a good amount.
Speaker 1: 03:38 And how does that compare to agencies elsewhere in the state?
Speaker 2: 03:41 Just like San Diego County represents a varied, um, sense of outcomes, uh, in terms of different attitudes. The same happens across the state. You have some, uh, agencies that are really at the front edge of complying with this. And I've even gone beyond it and Santa Clara, uh, North or even Los Angeles, their police department has been kind of at the bleeding edge of, of making sure that they are in compliance with this. And then you have other law enforcement agencies that just aren't kind of paying attention to this. And honestly, the enforcement mechanism would fall to the attorney general and local advocates who are trying to make sure that these are complied with. But that is a long and laborious
Speaker 1: 04:23 processed. Does this report from the California immigrant policy center make any recommendations to improve implementation of the state sanctuary state law?
Speaker 2: 04:33 People knew that because this law went into effect, um, less than a year after passage that it was going to take some time for, uh, law enforcement agencies to get up to kind of the standards and, and kind of narrow their interpretation. So everyone reached a consensus about what the law means and that would mean there would have to be an open Avenue of communication between the groups that helped draft the bill as well as the law enforcement agencies themselves. So they want to keep those, um, passive communication open and collaborating with law enforcement to make sure that they are in compliance. Uh, that being said, one other way that they would want to close the loopholes is maybe address them specifically like again, the posting of the public release dates and um, you know, kind of leaning on the attorney general to begin taking it much more seriously when local law enforcement is not following the law at all.
Speaker 1: 05:27 Now the Trump administration has sued over the law siding, the constitution supremacy clause that States federal law preempt state law when the two are at odds. Where does that lawsuit stand now?
Speaker 2: 05:37 So back in April, it was struck down by the ninth circuit court of appeals. This lawsuit was kind of dismissed. Now we're heading towards the Supreme court. Last week, the Trump administration announced that it was going to appeal the case to the Supreme court. And it is possible that it will be heard before the end of term, which would be in June. So given the amount of momentous, um, decisions coming in the pipeline from the Supreme court, you might just add this one to the list. Max Rivlin Adler is a reporter for KPBS focusing on the border. Max, thanks so much for joining us. Thank you.
Two years later, compliance with California’s “sanctuary state” is a mixed-bag, according to a new report.