Newsweek has just declared that, “More than 2.3 million undocumented immigrants in California are now officially protected under a new state sanctuary law.” Of course, unless California just seceded from the Union that’s not really true.
Yes, the Golden State just passed Senate Bill 54 (S.B. 54), declaring itself a “sanctuary state,” whatever that means. But, the last time anyone checked, California was still one of the fifty states that make up the United States of America – even though it doesn’t act like one.
And regardless of whether the California state legislature likes it, federal law, including the Immigration and Nationality Act, still applies there. Which means that foreigners who snuck into the United States or overstayed a visa aren’t “undocumented immigrants.” They’re just illegal aliens. Even if they decided to hang out in California.
What does S.B. 54 actually do? More of the same foolishness that sanctuary cities have already engaged in:
It bars police departments from detaining people based on their immigration status.
- It prohibits jails and prisons from holding illegal aliens for arrest by federal immigration authorities.
- It prevents immigrants from being delivered to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers unless they are convicted of certain felonies and misdemeanors.
- It limits the amount of personal information federal immigration officials can access on illegal aliens through state and local records. (Which appears to be a clear violation of federal law.)
So, are illegal aliens now immune to immigration enforcement from the San Francisco Bay to the High Sierra? Not by a long-shot. Border Patrol Agents and ICE Officers can still arrest illegal aliens in California. S.B. 54 just makes it more difficult for state and local law enforcement authorities to cooperate with them. But as FAIR has noted on numerous occasions, federal law enforcement officials have nationwide jurisdiction and don’t need to ask a state’s permission to enforce federal laws.
In fact, California was forced to acknowledge that fact in this legislation – S.B. 54 specifically “allows” federal immigration authorities to go into jails to question illegal aliens and to work with state correctional officials. From a legal standpoint, however, it seems pretty clear that a state government doesn’t have the authority to prohibit federal officials from questioning illegal aliens. Doing so would appear to be a federal crime.
One hopes that the Trump administration will take action to wake the Golden State up from its California dreamin’. However, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which covers California is notoriously pro-illegal alien. And the Supreme Court has, thus far, side-stepped any decisions on contested Trump immigration enforcement programs. Meanwhile, California can claim the dubious distinction of being a state that places the “rights” of illegal aliens above the safety and security of its own citizens.