State Senate bills aim to protect undocumented immigrants and uphold California as a sanctuary state
It has been a big week for immigrant rights advocates in California.
Acting on his promise to advocate for California’s undocumented community, Governor Jerry Brown last week signed a package of bills designed to protect the rights of undocumented individuals and their families.
As a part of his annual package of bills, the long-time governor signed bills that defied federal proposals on immigration advised by President Donald Trump and his administration.
“This action protects public safety and ensures hard-working people who contribute to our state are respected,” Brown said in a statement.
SB 29: The Dignity, Not Detention Bill
One of the bills, SB 29, called to block the expansion of for-profit detention of undocumented immigrants in California.
The bill, called the Dignity Not Detention bill, prevents the city and county governments from entering or renewing contracts with for-profit companies and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to detain immigrants.
The bill was introduced in the aftermath of widespread deaths and reports about the conditions at these for-profit facilities; at the Adelanto Detention Center in San Bernardino, there have been reports of death threats, suicide attempts and three deaths of undocumented immigrants this year, according to the people who were held there.
“California should not be siding with companies that profit from the detention of asylum seekers and the misery of divided families,” the bill’s author, state Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), said in a statement. “Senate Bill 29 will stop the runaway train of detention and shine a light on private companies so California can ensure the human rights and dignity of those immigrants detained in our state.”
In an effort to further regulate for-profit immigration detention facilities, SB 29 also subjects companies to adhere to the California Public Records Act before building or expanding; it requires companies 180 days of public notice and at least two public hearings before the city or county issues a permit to the company.
SB 54: The California Values Act
Amid threats of reducing funding from the Trump administration, California lawmakers’ goal of establishing California as a sanctuary state finally becomes a reality with Gov. Brown’s landmark signing of SB 54.
The bill changes the way in which state and local law enforcement interact with ICE and other federal immigration agencies. They are legally prohibited from using any resources to share information about undocumented individuals with federal immigration officials, unless they are convicted of violent crimes.
Additionally, public schools, libraries, health clinics, courthouses and other public facilities operated by the state are not to share any information about the undocumented with any federal agency.
The bill was designed to combat the strict, “xenophobic” immigration policies and rhetoric delivered by Trump, according to the bill’s author, CA State Senate pro Tempore Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles).
“The California Values Act won’t stop ICE from trolling our streets — it will not provide full sanctuary — but it will put a kink in Trump’s perverse and inhumane deportation machine,” de León said in his press release. “California is building a wall of justice against President Trump’s xenophobic, racist and ignorant immigration policies.”
SB 68: Expansion of AB 540 In-State Tuition for Non-traditional Students
Lara also authored another pro-immigrant bill signed by Brown, SB 68, which expands existing legislation that makes undocumented community college students eligible for in-state tuition and financial aid.
Signed in 2001, AB 540 was a landmark bill that expanded the benefits of in-state tuition and financial aid to undocumented students who graduated from and spent a minimum of three years in a California high school. Before, undocumented students — even those that were raised in the state — had to pay international student fees due to lack of legal residency.
SB 68 aims to continue AB 540’s legacy. It allows students to count years spent at California Community Colleges and adult education towards AB 540 eligibility. Additionally, students that have completed an Associate’s Degree (or made the minimum requirements) may transfer those credits to any University of California (UC) or California State University (CSU); there, they may apply as in-state students and for financial aid.
“I am proud of our state’s role as an educational pioneer, and Senate Bill 68 expands our landmark in-state tuition law into so that more students can afford to pursue their educations,” said Lara. “Expanding in-state tuition to include community college and non-traditional students will make sure no students fall through the cracks.”
“Students’ will to succeed always amazes me, and as lawmakers, it is our job to clear the way for them to go as far as their talents and drive can take them,” Lara added.
SB 257: Protect Education of California Students Exiled by Forced Departure of a Parent
Lara authored yet another immigration bill that Gov. Brown signed: SB 257 which protects education rights of undocumented youth.
This bill requires K-12 school districts to admit students whose parents departed the state either voluntarily or by deportation. Previously, students whose parents were forced out of the state fell behind in school and their education opportunities hindered.
The bill also protects children of inmates who may have had to relocate to stay closer to a parent that was transferred out of state.
“Our nation’s broken immigration laws are creating a lost generation of exiled children who left the country when their parents were deported and struggle with an unfamiliar culture and language,” said Lara. “Many of these exiled students will return to the U.S. someday, years behind other students. We owe it to their future and to our state to make sure they can continue their education in California schools if they are able.” (Klarize Medenilla/AJPress)