California, A Safe State for Undocumented Immigrants

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Estephany Haro
El Observador

On Monday, the California senate passed bill SB 54 in response of President Trump’s anti-immigration policies. The bill, proposed by California State Senate President Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) would apply a set of sanctuary policies statewide that would prevent law enforcement from working with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also known as ICE; with an exception of people who committed serious crimes such as murder and rape. There is disagreement over this bill, both in the senate and in the streets, but I think California is going towards the right path.

In the end, the senate did pass the bill with a vote of 27-12. By passing this sanctuary bill, undocumented immigrants will be less fearful in this moment of anxiety and fear. We currently live at a point where parents are being detained by ICE in front of their children on their way to school. Where parents are scared of sending their children to school, and even of showing up to work themselves. They are afraid of reporting crimes because they don’t want any law enforcement agency to have their personal information.

This is a sad reality for millions of undocumented immigrants who contribute billions of dollars to this economy and generally don’t commit crimes. In a statement from Kevin De Leon after the approval of the bill, he said, “Undocumented residents commit crimes and are incarcerated at a lower rate than native-born residents. Counties with sanctuary policies are safer and economically better off than comparable non-sanctuary counties. Our communities will become more – not less – dangerous if local police are enlisted to enforce immigration laws.”

Immigrant families are afraid that ICE will show up at their door step and deport them to a country that they haven’t been to in years, they’re afraid that their U.S. citizen children will be taken away from them. However, undocumented immigrants are not the only ones afraid of this administration. The legally staying young people known as “Dreamers” are fearful too.

According to Pew Research there are more than 700,000 young adults under Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program known as DACA, which protects them from deportation and allows them to work legally in the U.S. However now even these Dreamers are on thin ice, because of the Trump administration which has detained at least two DACA recipients without any justification.

At least now with the progress of this sanctuary state bill, the Dreamers residing in California will be less fearful of being detained by immigration agents, therefore, they can continue their education and live their law-abiding lives knowing that their local law enforcement agencies will not put them at any risk.

Even though the bill was passed in the senate with a majority vote, it now has to be passed by the Assembly. If approved, Gov. Jerry Brown would sing it into a law effective Jan. 1, 2018. This can have a tremendous impact, as nearly a quarter of all undocumented immigrants in the United States reside in California, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.

In 2105 Gov. Brown passed bill SB60, which grants driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. In the Bay Area alone, the number of sanctuary counties has increased after President Trump took office. These include San Francisco, Santa Cruz and Alameda, as well as cities such as Oakland and San Jose, according to the Mercury News. Our state is known to be an immigrant friendly state, and so it is good news that they continue to be on the forefront of providing a safe haven to our families, neighbors and friends.