By Derek Fleming, Courthouse News
SACRAMENTO (CN) – With several swipes of his pen, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a package of bills aimed at protecting undocumented immigrants Thursday morning, effectively making the Golden State a sanctuary state.
“The national agenda is a racist agenda, let’s not sugar coat it,” Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles, said to chants of “Si, se puede,” or “Yes, we can,” at a press conference in Los Angeles announcing the signing of Senate Bill 54, the California Values Act.
“It doesn’t matter if you are documented or undocumented,” Santiago said. “What matters is that we treat all people equally. SB 54 will ensure some dignity to people trying to get to school, to the doctor, or to a court.”
State Senate President Pro tem Kevin De Leon, D-Los Angeles, wrote SB 54 to counter Trump’s campaign promise to crack down on undocumented immigration. The measure establishes safe zones around schools, courts and hospitals and prevents cooperation with federal immigration authorities by state law enforcement. It is the signature piece of a package of 11 bills establishing protections for undocumented residents of California.
“California’s local law enforcement cannot be commandeered by the Trump administration and used to tear families apart, undermine our public safety and wreck our economy,” De Leon said. “It has been apparent to me for months – before Charlottesville, before Puerto Rico and before his rant against black athletes – that our president is pursuing biased law enforcement policies based on white supremacy, not American values.”
De Leon said the Trump administration attempts to create division through fear-mongering.
“I know Trump supporters don’t get this from their news, but immigrants commit far fewer crimes than citizens. That’s not fake news, but the Trump administration doesn’t want you to understand that,” De Leon said. “In California, we will do everything in our power to prevent families from being torn apart in order to feed the president’s base.”
SEIU United Service Workers West President David Huerta said SB 54 is a first step toward fixing the “broken immigration system” in the United States.
“It is in this moment of resistance that the moment is yours. What we do in California matters, and in California we will continue to resist, and through our resistance, we will win the justice that all communities deserve,” Huerta said. “The California Values Act represents what it means to be a Californian and an American in the United States. Our communities will not have to live in fear of deportation and violence.”
Pablo Alvarado, director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, said Trump seeks to cause distrust for political gain.
“California lawmakers are drawing their strength not from Trump, but from migrants who display a great deal of courage every single day,” Alvarado said. “The irony is that President Trump’s racist scapegoating has inspired an emerging consensus for even greater protections.”
Alvarado added the Trump administration wants migrants to fear the government, citizens to fear migrants and white people to fear people of color.
“They want to make sanctuary cities scared of federal retaliation,” Alvarado said. “Obviously, brothers and sisters, that’s not working out. SB 54 sets the floor for the total separation of immigration law from the criminal justice system. With the signing of SB 54, our state is telling the federal government, ‘President Trump, you can keep your money, we will keep our migrant community.’ SB 54 is turning the rhetoric of resistance into the policies of resistance.”
Other bills signed by Brown as part of the package include protections for education, housing, employment and law enforcement.
The only bill signed as part of the package that was introduced by a Republican was SB 156 by Joel Anderson, R-Alpine. His bill will aid the California National Guard to help its members who are undocumented gain citizenship.
Thursday’s signing follows other bills Brown has signed to provide protection and benefits for undocumented immigrants, including $30 million to fund college financial aid, funding for legal services and health care coverage for undocumented children.