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Should California back down on its sanctuary state law?

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The California Influencers Series

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This is a question from one of our readers: Do you think that state would be better off to abandon the sanctuary state posture which puts us in opposition to the feds?

Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean and Professor of Law at University of California, Berkeley School of Law

“No. ‘Sanctuary’ is a misnomer. It is simply that California does not want to cooperate with the harsh and repressive Trump administration policies. California should continue to play this role to protect its residents.”

Curt Pringle, Former Assembly Speaker, and Founder of Curt Pringle & Associates public relations

“Immigration is a federal issue. All sides of the political divide say so, but only when saying so is convenient to or advances their individual political position. But indeed immigration is a federal issue, and state officials should not detract from or undercut these federal government efforts.”

Renata Simril, President and CEO of LA84 Foundation

“This is a complicated question and one that I struggle with; on the one hand with nearly 3 million undocumented immigrants in the state of California, about 25 percent of the nation’s total and no clear and effective national immigration policy in place we need a system to protect law abiding undocumented populations, particular children and families. However, on the other hand it is imperative that we protect all Californian’s from criminals (documented or undocumented). The notion outlined in SB54 that places strict limits on ICE transfers or the practice of notifying ICE when an inmate will be released and limiting joint task forces that work together seems counterintuitive to finding ways federal government and local law enforcement can work together to ensure public safety.”

Ron George, Former Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court

“I believe that the sanctuary state posture negatively distorts the public perception of legitimate opposition to some of the actions being taken by the federal government.”

Catherine Lew, Principal and Co-Founder of The Lew Edwards Group

“Absolutely not! Now is the time to come down on the side of what’s moral and right—and continue to take a stand and say that ALL are welcome in our state. California voters may very well have the opportunity to have their say in 2020, if the Rosenberg Initiative seeking to eliminate sanctuary qualifies for the statewide ballot. #makecompassiongreatagain”

Jon Fleischman, Publisher of the FlashReport


Les Simmons, Pastor at South Sacramento Christian Center

“We have been told we need to ‘Make America great again’. With that being said California, the 5th largest economy in the world, is what the epitome of what makes America great. Our innovative ideas, passion for social justice and heart for immigrants. So no we shouldn’t abandon the heart and soul of what makes us great but instead lean all the way in. Our role is to continue to lead with the values of justice, dignity, and respect for all, including our immigrant brothers and sisters.”

Laboni Hoq, Litigation Director for Asian Americans Advancing Justice

“No. The recent court ruling — by a Republican appointee — upholding the vast majority of our sanctuary state policies now confirms what we know in our hearts: that we can and should enact laws that protect immigrants from inhumane treatment. Immigrants have enriched our state in so many ways and have become the backbone of our economy. The current federal anti-immigrant policies are based on xenophobia and a White supremacist agenda, not on making us stronger as a nation. We must continue to resist cruel federal immigration policies that separate families and terrorize immigrant communities.”

Harmeet Dhillon, Republican National Committee, California, and Partner in Dhillon Law Group

“California needs to be in line with federal law on immigration, at a minimum because the Constitution and federal law exclusively govern admissibility into the U.S. More importantly, Californians already living here legally have vested and important interests and rights in quality of life, education, housing, and employment opportunities that are threatened by illegal immigration.”

Jim Newton, Lecturer of Public Policy at University of California, Los Angeles

“No. Although I have mixed feelings about the term ‘sanctuary state’ (it seems to imply that illegal immigrants can never be deported, which is not true), I don’t think this is the time for California to back off.”

Jim Boren, Executive Director of the Fresno State Institute for Media and Public Trust; Former Executive Editor of The Fresno Bee

“The sanctuary state label is not helpful to the ongoing dialogue, as politicians and others on the extremes use it to make points to their constituencies. The partisans overstate what the sanctuary state status will and won’t do. It is a relatively reasonable accommodation, but that gets lost in the heated debate over ‘sanctuary status.’ You wonder how many have actually read the law.”

Larisa Cespedes, Chair of Hispanas Organized for Political Equality; Partner at Lang, Hansen, O’Malley & Miller

“The City and County of San Francisco, County of Santa Clara, and now the State of California have prevailed in federal court against claims that these laws, designed to protect public safety, interfere with the enforcement of federal immigration laws. These court rulings support what Governor Brown said in his signing statement after the enactment of Senate Bill 54, the California Values Act, ‘This bill...prohibits the commandeering of local officials to do the work of immigration agents...These are uncertain times for undocumented Californians and their families, and this bill strikes a balance that will protect public safety, while bringing a measure of comfort to those families who are now living in fear every day’ We should continue to ensure all Californians are safe by protecting children and families who contribute to our economy and future vibrancy of our state.”

Sal Russo, Co-founder of Tea Party Express

“Father Theodore Hesburgh, former president of the University of Notre Dame said, ‘Close the back door of illegal immigration so as to keep open the golden door of legal immigration.’ The left has confused the very different issues of legal and illegal immigration, causing some to oppose needed legal immigration as well as making some oblivious to the problems of illegal immigration. Sanctuary laws contribute little substantively, but instead exacerbate further confusion on this key issue. The state should cease appearing to being unable to distinguish between those coming through the ‘golden door’ and the ‘back door.’”

Manuel Pastor, Director of Program for Environmental and Regional Equity at the University of Southern California

“First, it’s good to be in opposition to the feds on this issue: the administration’s recent policy of separating parents from their children at the border managed to demonstrate both cruelty and incompetence, but it was just an extension of the deportation regime threatening family integrity in our neighborhoods and workplaces.

“Second, it’s actually popular: despite the fanning of the flames by right-wing agitators, 56 percent of Californian voters support the sanctuary policy. It’s not for nothing that the actual legislation is called the California Values Act—its commitment to community reflects who we are in the Golden State.

“Finally, it’s actually a smart strategy: separating immigrant enforcement from local law enforcement enhances public safety by encouraging residents to trust the police. With evidence also demonstrating that immigrants commit fewer not more crimes, the policy is right on values, right on politics, and right on logic.”

Maria Mejia, Los Angeles Director, Gen Next

“In terms of immigrant lives — it doesn’t matter very much.

“The debate around California’s sanctuary status is not about reform, and almost pure political posturing by lawmakers in their attempt to one up one another.

“The immigrant, the dreamer and the migrant child are mere pawns in our own ridiculous fight.”

Cesar Diaz, Legislative and Political Director of State Building and Construction Trades Council

“California should not turn public services into immigration enforcement.”

Timothy White, Chancellor of the California State University

“We must always stand up for our Californian values of inclusivity, opportunity, equity and justice. We continue to be a model for how states should work with immigrant communities. Rather than instilling fear, the state has taken the wise approach to foster opportunities for everyone to take part in our economy — and contribute to the state’s coffers.

“However, there are many instances of California receiving support from the federal government. I do not believe that being in continuous, open confrontation with the federal government serves the people of California well — when and where it makes sense, we should strive to find common ground.”

Andrea Ambriz, Chief of Staff for Service Employees International Union Local 2015

“California’s ‘sanctuary’ law specifically regards the use of state resources to enforce federal law, it is not a direct mandate to position California to oppose activities of the federal government. In fact, the Values Act (known as the Senate Bill 54 ‘sanctuary’ law) prioritizes the use of public safety resources for the needs of state and local authorities, by maintaining that immigration enforcement is a matter of federal jurisdiction and the responsibility of the federal government.

“Safeguarding California’s resources and allowing our public safety officials to protect our communities and continue to do their job duties makes sense, and that is why the law was enacted last year with the strong support of communities across the state.

“That being said, in the absence of a true and equitable comprehensive immigration reform to consider the range of issues, perspectives, and communities involved in the our current immigration crisis, it is critical that California continues to prioritize the needs and rights of its residents above all else. SB 54 upholds that tenant and therefore should be maintained.”

Kim Yamasaki, Executive Director of Center for Asians United for Self Empowerment

“We are a state built on the backs of immigrants. More than 10 million Californians are immigrants. Our workers our immigrants. Our students are immigrants. The government is to be held accountable to the people. When federal policy contradicts the well-being of our state, California must be steadfast in doing what is right. We need to protect Californians by upholding the sanctuary state posture.”

Bonnie Castillo, Executive Director of California Nurses Association

“Nurses have supported sanctuary state bills such as SB 54 (DeLeon) and other measures that will ensure that California can be a true sanctuary state and will continue to vigorously defend immigrant children through DACA.”

Angie Wei, Chief of Staff of California Labor Federation

“Why would we better off? The federal district court judge has now upheld SB 54 and law enforcement and public agencies are implementing. Why would we abandon this now?”

David Townsend, Founder of TCT Public Affairs

“Opposition to the Trump federal immigration policies is an obligation of all thoughtful Americans. The establishment of a sanctuary state is part of that resistance. It must continue.”

Daniel Zingale, Senior Vice President of The California Endowment

“No. California is thriving as a sanctuary state, even as Washington D.C. threatens us on a daily basis. A recent UC San Diego study found jurisdictions not collaborating with federal immigration forces are safer and have stronger economies. A federal court has affirmed our constitutional right to defend the safety and privacy of all Californians. Our elected California attorney general has the right and responsibility to inspect the shameful proliferation of federal immigrant family prisons. And we are right to protect our people from orders coming out of Washington D.C. to disrupt our workplaces without a warrant, to harass our communities without just cause, and worst of all to separate our families.”

Eloy Oakley, Chancellor of California Community Colleges

“In my opinion, the state should focus less on reactionary policies and focus more attention on proactive policies. Congress holds the key and until we can get Congress to protect immigrants then California has no choice but to pursue reactionary policies like sanctuary state status.”

Madeleine Brand, Radio host with KCRW Los Angeles

“No—and a federal judge recently upheld the sanctuary law.”

Matt Barreto, Professor of Chicano Studies at UCLA; Co-founder of Latino Decisions

“California’s sanctuary state status is entirely consistent with federal law, district court and Supreme Court rulings and it ensures that immigrants and their families are not under constant harassment. Courts have ruled that states should not be involved in immigration enforcement, and this is what the California law guarantees. Our law does not prevent federal immigration officers from carrying out any of their duties. Rather, consistent with the law, it clarifies that state and local police are not to act as immigration cops.”

Bill Burton, Managing Director of SKDKnickerbocker in Los Angeles

“The question we should always be answering is, what will make our communities safer? If local law enforcement says that immigration enforcement in the case of minor offenses distracts them from their mission, I think we should believe them.”

Jonathan Keller, President of California Family Council

“While no doubt well-intentioned, California’s ‘sanctuary state’ policies have created further tension and confusion. Our state is home to both the majority and minority leaders for the House of Representatives. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) and Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) should work together to craft a commonsense compromise that respects the dignity every person while providing a path forward for those here illegally.”

Monica Lozano, President and CEO of College Futures Foundation

“The recent ruling by a federal judge against the bulk of the Trump administration’s bid to block California sanctuary state provisions reaffirms our official position on providing protections immigrants in the state. It is both legal and just.”

Jon Coupal, President of Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

“Yes. California would be better off abandoning the sanctuary state posturing and seek bi-partisan immigration reform in Congress. Unfortunately, California’s existing Democratic leadership has decided that it is to their political advantage to demagogue the issue rather than seek a constructive compromise.”

Roger Salazar, President of Alza Strategies

“Absolutely not. It’s the Trump administration that is trying to divide Americans by focusing on immigrant communities. If we do not stand up to these misguided policies in California, who will?”

Michele Siquieros, President of Campaign for College Opportunity

“No. California will stand on the right side of history as it defends the rights of immigrants and asylum seekers. The Trump administrations policies of zero tolerance resulting in mass separation of children from their parents is state sanctioned child abuse and a violation of human rights of the most vulnerable of people. It is shameful, illegal, and immoral. Opposition to these practices is the only course of action.”

Janet Napolitano, President of the University of California

“No. The so-called sanctuary laws already contain some important exceptions where public safety is concerned. They simply prioritize how the state’s law enforcement resources will be used, leaving it to the feds to carry out immigration enforcement, which is inherently a federal issue. In addition to being a statement of our values where immigration is concerned, the laws implicate important states rights. It is entirely appropriate for California to stand up for itself here.”

Antonia Hernandez, President and CEO of California Community Foundation

“No, we need to demonstrate our commitment to protecting all of our residents.”

Linda Ackerman, President of Marian Bergeson Excellence in Public Service Series

“Our Constitution is very clear about federal jurisdiction regarding immigration. A uniform policy prevents the chaos that would certainly prevail if each state had the power to establish it’s own immigration policies.”

Chet Hewitt, President and CEO of Sierra Health Foundation

“Not at all, particularly since no one knows from one day to the next what federal immigration policy will be. What we do know is that it seems intent on doing more harm than good, and in California better federal relations should never mean the acquiesce to inhuman and ineffective approaches to even the most challenging policy issues. This is especially true when racism, exclusion and outright untruths are the basis for their enactment. Millions of individual lives and the stability of California families hang in the balance, and if history has taught us anything - Japanese internment, civil and voting rights - it is more important to stand for what is right today than to apologize for our intentional unwillingness to act against wrong tomorrow. California’s sanctuary state posture is our collective voice of opposition and humanity in a time when a lot more of both are desperately needed.”

Kristin Olsen, Former minority leader in the California Assembly, and Stanislaus County Supervisor

“California should not provide a safe harbor for people who commit crimes — whether those people are in our state legally or illegally. The sanctuary state policy has done nothing other than to polarize people even further and contribute to the delays in passing substantive reform at the federal level.”

Rob Stutzman, Founder & President of Stutzman Public Affairs

“The sanctuary state law encourages resistance to federal immigration enforcement and is poorly thought out because it doesn’t solve anything long term. While the Trump administration’s zealous and nonsensical enforcement is a policy and moral failure, the state would be better served to more creatively challenge failed federal policies by, for example, creating it’s own guest worker program that provides state tax IDs to migrant workers and challenge the Feds to a waiver or litigate the state’s right to regulate it’s own labor. This is something that would receive bi-partisan support.”

Jessica Levinson, Professor of Law at Loyola Law School

“No, particularly in light of the fact that a court has at least preliminary upheld the majority of the law.”

Mike Madrid, Principal of Grassroots Lab

“Sanctuary policies at the state and local level are political statements and not policy solutions. Our focus should remain on comprehensive immigration reform and avoid devolving the debate into emotionally charged platitudes that only exacerbate racial tensions and provide no meaningful solutions.”