If the Trump administration was vexed about sanctuary cities’ resistance to participating in federal immigration enforcement efforts, it’s really not going to like the latest development: sanctuary states.
State senators in California approved a bill last week that would block local law enforcement agencies from helping federal authorities to target and detain undocumented immigrants residing in the state.
California isn’t the only state to propose immigrant protections on a state level. Similar bills are pending in Maryland, New York, Illinois, and Nevada state legislatures.
Proponents of the California bill argue that sanctuary state status would mean undocumented immigrants would be able to live without fear of deportation. Under new federal immigration policy, committing even the most minor of infractions, like driving with a broken taillight, can be grounds for deportation.
But not everyone in California is on board, and support for the measure varies depending on the political leanings of a given county.
Donny Youngblood, a sheriff from Kern County — where Trump won the vote with nearly 55 percent — told the New York Times that he anticipates a legal showdown between the federal government and the state of California,should the measure become law. Youngblood is also the president of California State Sheriffs Association, which is currently lobbying against the bill.
Similarly, in El Dorado County, California — another conservative stronghold — Sheriff John D’Agostini vows to resist Senate Bill 54 if it is signed into law. D’Agostini sees the bill as “tantamount to coddling criminals” according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
“I’m going to follow federal law on this issue,” D’Agostini said. “Its concerning because it’s going to put me crosswise with state law.”
California’s bill is moving quickly and if passed, would significantly impact federal enforcement efforts. According to Pew Research from 2014, more than two million undocumented immigrants reside in California — about a fifth of the overall undocumented population. Experts consulted by the Times think that California may account for about half of the undocumented population. Gov. Jerry Brown has not indicated where he stands on this.
Other sanctuary state efforts have encountered resistance or roadblocks from wary lawmakers.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, has vowed to veto the state sanctuary bill if it is passed by the legislature. New York State Democrats have been pushing the “Liberty Bill,” which would make the Empire State a “sanctuary” state (New York City is already a sanctuary city).
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, who has been outspoken in his support of New York City’s sanctuary status, has indicated lukewarm support for turning the entire state into a sanctuary. “We have to review that because what exactly a sanctuary state is is a little ambiguous, right?” Cuomo said in February.
Vermont, so far, is leading the pack. Last month, Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, signed a measure that prohibits local law enforcement agencies from cooperating with federal immigration law without his approval. That includes collecting data during interactions with immigrants about their legal status or religion.