SACRAMENTO (CBS13/AP) – The California Legislature advanced a bill Tuesday that would provide statewide sanctuary for immigrants by restricting local law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration authorities.
The move in the nation’s largest state came as legislative Democrats ramp up their efforts to battle the immigration crackdown started by President Donald Trump.
The state Senate Public Safety Committee approved the measure in a 5-2 party-line vote less than a week after Trump signed an order threatening to withdraw some federal grants from sanctuary cities.
Democrats say the new legislation is necessary to prevent fear of deportation in families with some members living in California without authorization.
“Draconian immigration policies do not work,” said Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon of Los Angeles, the author of the measure. “They separate children from their mothers and mothers from their children.”
Republicans and law enforcement groups say the bill would make it harder to keep Californians safe.
“I think this bill is making it that much more difficult for the federal authorities to get the most dangerous criminals that we want to deport to keep our communities safe,” said Sen. Jeff Stone, a Temecula Republican who voted against the measure.
Many of California’s largest cities – including Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento – already have sanctuary policies that prohibit police from cooperating with immigration authorities.
Later Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee was expected to consider fast-tracked legislation that would allow the state to spend an undisclosed amount of money to provide lawyers for people facing deportation.
Some Republicans have criticized the Democratic reaction to Trump’s policies, saying bombastic rhetoric and provocative legislation will inflame tensions with the president and harm California.
The debate over sanctuary cities escalated in 2015 after Kate Steinle, 32, was fatally shot in the back by Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, who was in the country illegally after multiple deportations to his native Mexico.
Lopez-Sanchez, who told police the gun fired by accident, had been released from a San Francisco jail despite a request from federal immigration authorities that he be held in custody for possible deportation. Trump often cited the Steinle case during the presidential campaign.
Many other cities and counties in California also refuse to detain immigrants for deportation agents out of legal concerns after a federal court ruled that immigrants can’t be held in jail beyond their scheduled release dates.
Since then, federal agents have been asking local law agencies to provide information about immigrants they’re seeking for deportation, if not hold them.
The California sanctuary legislation now goes to the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Copyright 2017 The Associated Press.