a pro-immigration march
A pro-immigration march in downtown San Diego. Photo by Chris Stone

A nationally watched bill to prevent local and state police from taking part in federal immigration enforcement passed the California Legislature early Saturday morning and heads to Gov. Jerry Brown for signature.

Senate Bill 54, by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León of Los Angeles, would bar local police and sheriffs from cooperating with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency on deportations in most cases. It would also prohibit local officers from inquiring about someone’s immigration status.

The bill passed the Assembly by a vote of 51-26, and then the Senate by 27-11.

After the first vote, Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez of San Diego tweeted, “So honored to be the floor manger of this important protection for all CA families.”

Brown said the Legislature, on the final day of the session, had taken a “profoundly important vote” that would prove “good for the American people.”

Passage of what has been called a “sanctuary state” bill comes amid President Trump’s focus on increasing deportations and limiting future immigration.

The Republican minority in the Legislature opposed the bill. Senate Republican Leader Patricia Bates of Laguna Niguel said that even with last-minute changes sought by Brown, the law could permit dangerous criminals to be returned to the streets.

“Given their limited resources, I agree that state and local law enforcement should not be doing the jobs of federal immigration agents,” said Bates. “However, even with the latest amendments, SB 54 could still lead to dangerous individuals such as repeat drunk drivers, criminal gang members and those who assault peace officers being let out on the streets when they should have been deported instead.”

The California Police Chiefs Association was neutral on the bill, but the California State Sheriffs’ Association opposed it.

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.