Tuesday, June 14, 2011

California: The Sanctuary State

Americans are familiar with sanctuary cities and counties but now California appears to be heading toward becoming the first sanctuary state. While Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Arizona have passed legislation taking a tougher stand on illegal immigration, California is heading in the opposite direction with bills such as AB 540, AB 1081, AB 130, and AB 131. American Thinker interviewed several of those who are knowledgeable about the situation in California.

California AB 1081, recently passed by the Democratic majority Assembly, would require the Department of Justice to renegotiate its 2009 agreement: to participate in the Federal Secure Communities Act (SCA), which is an information sharing partnership between Federal, State, and local agencies.

An ICE spokesperson described the Act as a mandatory requirement for law enforcement to submit the fingerprints of anyone arrested to "the FBI to be checked against the Department of Justice's biometric system...and are automatically sent to DHS's biometric system to check against its immigration and law enforcement records." Those that support the bill want to modify the Secure Communities Act to stop the information sharing with ICE.

However, an ICE official insisted that their local field office, "and not the state or any local law enforcement agency, determines what immigration enforcement action, if any, is appropriate...The local field office in that jurisdiction will or will not take enforcement action based on the fingerprint results... State and local jurisdictions cannot opt out of the program."

Then Attorney General Jerry Brown supported this program, SCA, when he wrote to the San Francisco Sheriff last year, "You requested that the California Department of Justice block ICE from running checks on the fingerprints collected in San Francisco. The Secure Communities program is up and running...because I think this program serves both public safety and the interest of justice, I am declining your request." Now that he is Governor I hope that he will veto this bill, since it gives local law enforcement the option of not participating in the fingerprint-sharing program; essentially removing California counties from the mandatory Federal program.

Sheriffs Lee Baca, Los Angeles County, and Adam Christianson, Stanislaus County, also oppose AB 1081. They agree with Brown that jurisdictions should not opt out, since the Secure Communities Act is an effective tool for law enforcement that helps keep the communities safe. Christianson resents this legislation "because it interferes with my authority as the Sheriff to be able to protect and defend the community. The supporters of this bill are spreading misinformation, primarily to the Latino Community. They are the ones protecting the criminals." The supporters also claim that victims who are illegal and come forward will be deported.

However, the ICE official pointed out that only those arrested get finger printed so this is just a scare tactic. The supporters of 1081 are ignoring the real issue, public safety.

The statistics seem to be on the side of those who want to maintain this program, SCA. The ICE official cited as of April that "71 % of the aliens removed or returned through Secure Communities nationwide had criminal convictions. The remaining 29% were non criminal immigration violators, including individuals who had been previously removed, immigration fugitives, aliens who entered the US without inspection, visa violators, and visa overstays. In California, the program has resulted in the identification and repatriation of more than 41,000 deportable aliens, more than 70 % of whom had criminal convictions." Steve Whitmore, the spokesman for Sherriff Baca, noted that approximately 16,000 illegal aliens are incarcerated in county jails, costing the county $100 million per year; yet, the county is only reimbursed by the Federal Government $15 million per year.

A hidden benefit of Secure Communities, according to Whitmore, is that the county's cost is lowered when an illegal is transferred by ICE to a Federal holding facility.

This appears to be another instance of States rights versus Federal Rights. While Arizona is fulfilling its obligations to the citizens, going as far as denying State revenue money to jurisdictions that try to opt out, California is going in a divergent direction. Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne sees 1070, the immigration bill, as an extension of the Secure Communities Act. California Assemblyman Tom Donnelly (R) tried to get a bill similar to 1070, AB 26, to the floor for a vote, but was thwarted by the Democratic majority.

By passing 1081 and not voting on AB 26, Congressman Brian Bilbray (R-CA), chairman of the Immigration Reform Caucus, feels that Sacramento is sending the wrong message and he cannot understand "How you can be opposed to checking fingerprints of people that are jailed, making sure these people are not in this country illegally? How can anyone be opposed to that? Justice, law and fairness no longer matter."

Other California bills that show how the legislators are crossing the line are AB 540, AB 130, and AB 131. The latter two allow for undocumented students to apply for both fee waivers at the community college level and also institutional aid from larger colleges and universities. This follows the passage of AB 540 that allows illegal immigrants to attend public colleges and pay in state tuition fees. There are a number of out of state US residents who tried suing the California University system, until the Supreme Court dismissed it.

One student, Onson Luong, a resident of Nevada whose parents immigrated to the US legally from China feels that that "this is completely unfair for someone here illegally to get benefits through a loophole, having attended high school in California for three years. Why are they allowed to pay in state tuition when citizens are not?" Donnelly feels that a vast majority of Californians would not approve of these measures if they knew about them, especially since the college system is taxpayer subsidized. As a result of these bills out of state students are recruited to pay for the extra debt incurred which means there are even fewer spots for California legal residents.

Furthermore, according to Donnelly these students who graduate will never be able to work or pay taxes "because they are illegal. The entire investment which is how they sell it is a poor use of resources."

Congressman Bilbray wants Congress to limit funding to those states which "actively violate our immigration policy. The Federal Government is no longer going to be sending money to anybody who is financing illegal immigration. Sacramento better wake up, that the days of depending on Washington to finance their political agenda is coming to an end."

Hopefully he is correct because the line between legal and illegal is being erased in California. An Arizonan legislator John Kavanagh (R) sarcastically commented that "We very much like California. We appreciate welcoming states like California because that deflects from us. We should put an ad in our newspapers showing how California has bestowed all sorts of benefits to illegal immigrants."

Matt Ramsey (R), a Georgia Legislator, is co-authoring a bill that prohibits any illegal from attending any Georgia college, was also sarcastic, noting that "I am not optimistic that our friends on the LEFT COAST will reverse course anytime soon and get some common sense." Unfortunately, both these legislators speak the truth since Sacramento legislators, in passing these bills, have shown that they represent the unlawful immigrants, not the lawful residents of California.


Texas Senate Hears Testimony on Sanctuary Cities Bill

A Texas Senate committee heard testimony this morning on legislation that would enable local law enforcement to question people about their immigration status during encounters such as traffic stops. The so-called “sanctuary cities” legislation died during the 2011 regular session but Governor Rick Perry put in back on the call for this month’s special session.

Democrats have been opposed to sanctuary cities legislation. Senator Wendy Davis (D- Fort Worth) questioned Texas Department of Public Safety officials this morning about the current language of the bill. She thinks it could give police officers too much power.

“My concern is that if it’s light-haired fair-eyed me, I might have a different procedure applied to determining my identity but if I am dark-haired and brown-skinned and dark-eyed, there may be a different procedure to determine my identity… that’s my concern,” Davis told DPS officials.

Senator Davis voiced concern that if passed, this bill would open the door to stops based solely on suspicion of illegal immigration status without probable cause for a criminal offense. DPS Highway Patrol officer John Rainey spoke of how officers handle these cases right now.

“The only time we would contact border patrol or ICE on a traffic stop is if we for the most part the person’s either going to tell us their not from this country or we have good reasonable suspicion that they’re not from this country,” Rainey testified.

Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (D-McAllen) said the state could overreach its authority when it comes to immigration enforcement.

“The immigration laws state that being in this country illegally is a civil matter not a criminal matter and the federal courts have consistently ruled that the state’s don’t have the authority to enforce the provisions of the immigration laws and is limited only to criminal,” Hinojosa said.

Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez said the sanctuary cities bill comes with a price tag for local communities. Valdez worried about the burden on county jails at a time when many are making budget cuts.

“The undocumented stay longer in our jails than the others so therefore it’s going to give us more costs 60 dollars a day average. Who do I decide to put out when a hundred more a month come in? Who do I let out? We’re already stressed and we’re trying to hold as many people as we can,” Valdez said. ”And who’s going to make that decision on what are the categories on who we put out? I honestly believe the jails should have room for people we are afraid of not that we are upset with.”

Testimony is scheduled to continue for hours today since so many people signed up to speak.


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