With the California Values Act (SB 54, Sen. de León) going into effect on January 1, 2018, local community organizing efforts are already increasing protections for immigrants propelled by landmark legislation. SB 54 creates a statewide standard and lays the groundwork for greater protections at the local level. The measure is the latest policy victory won by the ICE out of California coalition, a statewide collective that has fought back against the federal government’s cruel and criminalizing deportation machine. This week alone has seen three key developments. 

Today, the Monterey County Sheriff will cut ties with a deportation agent who had previously been stationed in the jail, following years of advocacy by community and civil rights groups. Earlier this week, hundreds mobilized to the Pomona City Council in eastern Los Angeles County, winning an ordinance to ensure strong implementation of SB 54. Meanwhile, in a case highlighting the danger of local involvement in deportations, on Tuesday, a US citizen unlawfully arrested by ICE sued both ICE and the San Bernardino Sheriff's department, which held her until ICE could arrive to further detain her.  

How it works: SB 54 or the “California Values Act”, sometimes referred to as the "sanctuary state" bill, places baseline protections that limit local and state law enforcement from acting as deportation agents, and it protects Californians from the dangerous consequences of the Trump administration's deportation machine. 

The law ends several shameful local deportation practices altogether, among them local police arrests for deportation orders or most other immigration violations, using immigration agents as interpreters, local police sharing non-public, personal information with ICE, and the notorious "287g" deportation agreements which former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio used to terrorize communities.  It also codifies a prohibition on cruel, costly, and unconstitutional ICE "holds" in local jails. Additionally, SB 54 will help ensure key spaces like public hospitals, schools, health facilities, and courthouses remain safe and accessible.

SB 54 also places limits on other local abuses that can rip families apart, such as notifying ICE when a community member is about to be released from custody or transferring a community member to ICE. These provisions set a foundation which local governments can continue to build on in order to uphold due process for all people. 

In a statement released after the Governor signed the bill in October, the broad coalition of groups who worked to pass the bill summed up the significance of the campaign:

The Trump administration, in its zeal to deport millions, is turning police and sheriffs into deportation agents. This has broken up families, opened the door to civil rights violations, burdened local resources, and further undermined confidence in law enforcement.

The California Values Act will challenge this xenophobic agenda. The new law will advance protections for immigrants in communities across the state, ending a number of shameful local deportation practices altogether and setting limits on other abuses.

SB 54 makes strides toward recognizing the value of rehabilitation in the context of a justice system which is all too often unjust. We are eager to implement these protections and to build on the foundation they create.

We also recognize that California must do much more to embrace the humanity of all who call our state home, including Californians criminalized by racially biased systems of mass incarceration. We will keep fighting to raise the bar for due process and equal treatment statewide.