SB 54, also known as the “California Values Act” or the “sanctuary state” law, was passed in an effort to promote public safety and effective policing and to protect people’s constitutional rights. It was signed into law in 2017.
The major part of the law bans local law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration agents. It also creates “safe zones” for immigrants around schools, hospitals and courts, meaning that no immigration actions can be taken against people as they are accessing these services.
Other parts of the law ban employers from giving immigration authorities information about the legal status of their employees and allows state inspections of any immigrant detention facilities operated in California by the federal government.
Constitutionality of the law challenged in court
Several charter cities, including Huntington Beach, had filed a lawsuit trying to stop the law. They argued that it unconstitutionally intruded on their right to make their own, local decisions about whether to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement. An Orange County Superior Court ruled in favor of the charter cities, but that ruling has been overturned by one of California’s immediate appeals courts, the California Court of Appeal for the Fourth Appellate District.
In a victory for supporters of the California Values Act, the Court of Appeal ruled that the law is constitutional.
When it passed the law, the California legislature specifically noted research on what happens when local law enforcement cooperates with federal immigration authorities. That research found, for example, that 44% of Latinos surveyed said they would be less likely to contact the police after becoming victims of a crime if they knew the police might ask about their immigration status.
This issue was also highly prevalent among unauthorized immigrants. Fully 70% of unauthorized immigrants said they would be less likely to report being a crime victim if they thought the police might ask about their immigration status.
“The need for immigrants to report crimes, work with law enforcement, and serve as witnesses, is therefore a statewide, and not purely local, concern,” reads the opinion.
If you have an irregular immigration status, you may wish to contact an immigration attorney for help. Yew Immigration Law Group has years of experience helping people legally live and work in the United States. All consultations are confidential.