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California Sanctuary State Legislation Runs Into Stiff Law Enforcement Headwinds

San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Ian Parkinson warned Gov. Jerry Brown that Senate Bill 54, legislation to set up California as a “sanctuary state,” would only make a bad situation worse.

“It will still allow violent criminals like domestic violence offenders and child traffickers to be released into the community," Parkinson said in a statement to KSBY. "In addition, if ICE is unable to pick up criminal offenders from jail, it will force ICE agents to go into neighborhoods and businesses to locate and detain them.”

Republican California Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham told KSBY he plans to vote against the legislation when it comes to the Assembly floor in September.

"This bill would protect criminals from deportation at the expense of law-abiding residents, and people in our community deserve to have their public safety put first," Cunningham said.

While Republicans, like Cunningham, and law enforcement officials, like Parkinson, were urging Brown to make massive changes to so-called “sanctuary state legislation,” the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity held a prayer session in Jerry Brown’s office Tuesday urging him to approve the bill.

Leslie Takahashi, a minister with the Unitarian Universalist Church, took part in the prayer service in Brown’s office and said she was worried about what the governor might be discussing with Republicans.

“What we see going on is an effort to reduce the effectiveness and the statement that we are trying to make,” Takahashi told the L.A. Times.

Senate Bill 54 would prohibit sheriff’s agencies and local police departments from cooperating with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement activity to arrest and deport illegal aliens.

The Los Angeles Times described the bill, introduced by Sen. Kevin de Leon (D), as the “centerpiece proposal of a legislative package to protect immigrants.”

As Democrats and groups like the religious leaders who occupied Brown’s outer office in what leaders of the IMHI called “an act of civil disobedience” backed the bill, California Republicans and the state sheriffs' association are urging Brown to veto the legislation.

Gov. Brown has concerns about Senate Bill 54, too. Various California media have reported he is working behind the scenes with Sen. de Leon to amend the package with an eye toward making it more palatable to the GOP and law enforcement agencies in the state.

They’re working against the calendar. SB 54 is expected to face an Assembly vote and then a Senate concurrence vote Sept. 5-15. Assuming it’s approved by both chambers of the Legislature, Brown would then have until Oct. 15 to decide if he would sign the bill, veto it, or allow it to become law without his signature.

Bill Brown, the sheriff of Santa Barbara County and president of the state sheriffs' association, told reporters Aug. 9 that Brown may never have to make that decision.

“This is not a fait accompli,” said Brown.“There are many members of the Assembly who are not comfortable with this legislation.”

Cynthia Buiza, executive director of the California Immigrant Policy Center, accused Sheriff Brown and the other law enforcement officials of trying to bully Gov. Brown and the legislature.

“The level of vitriol directed against a bill that already contains exceptions and even has law enforcement support speaks to an uncomfortable truth: the Trump administration's ever-expanding rhetoric of ‘criminalization’ is the cover story for alarming abuses of federal power,” Buiza said.

She also argued there’s no room for compromise.

“Gov. Brown must resist the sheriff's onslaught and champion SB 54 in its most visionary form,” Buiza added. “We cannot use California's resources to help the Trump administration deport millions of people who are a vital part of our communities.”

However, there has already been some compromise. SB 54 was changed to allow police to give ICE information about inmates whose rap sheets included deportation for violent crimes, serving time for felonies or misdemeanors, or a serious or violent felony conviction.

Still, Sheriff Brown said that wasn't good enough.

He told reporters that even as amended, SB 54, would “provide sanctuary to criminals and endangers the public.”

“Many, many serious and violent criminals,” Sheriff Brown added, “would return to our communities and would prey on the immigrant community.”

Sheriff Brown has done more than just talk to reporters. He warned Democratic Assemblymember Monique Limon approval of SB 54 could mean a loss of “vital federal funding.”

The Intercept reported Brown and the California State Sheriffs' Association were also laying out a strategy to deal with the approval of SB 54 that includes a ballot initiative to scuttle the legislation.

“This is the best political climate to move forward on this type of measure with advocacy from the Trump administration,” wrote Ted Hilton, president of the Taxpayer Revolution Foundation, referring to the ballot initiative idea in an email to Sheriff Brown.

So, Gov. Brown may be willing to bend even more. He said on NBC’s “Meet The Press” that SB 54 negotiations had become a “balancing act.”

“The goal here is to block and not to collaborate with abuse of federal power,” Gov. Brown said. “It does require some sensitivity. And that’s why I take a more nuanced and careful approach to dealing with what is a difficult problem. Because you do have people who are not here legally, they’ve committed crimes.”