State Senate panel pushes California sanctuary city bill forward

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Legislative Democrats in California are advancing a bill that would restrict local law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration authorities.

The Senate Public Safety Committee approved SB54 in a 5-2 party-line vote on Tuesday.

The measure would create a border-to-border sanctuary in the nation's largest state. It's California Democrats' first formal action to resist President Donald Trump's immigration policies.

The Democratic legislation, written by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon of Los Angeles, came up for debate less than a week after Trump signed an order threatening to withdraw some federal grants from jurisdictions that bar officials from communicating with federal authorities about someone's immigration status.

Democrats say the legislation is necessary to prevent the fear of deportation in families where some members are living in California without authorization, while representatives from law enforcement groups say cooperation among all levels of law enforcement are necessary to keep people safe.

The legislation goes next to the Senate Appropriations Committee. It's advancing less than a week after Trump signed an order threatening to withdraw some federal grants from sanctuary cities.

While many of California's largest cities — including Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento — have so-called sanctuary policies that prohibit police from cooperating with immigration authorities, much of the state does not.

California's legislative leaders have pledged to fight back against Trump's policies they label discriminatory. Republicans say Democrats will harm the state by reflexively fighting Trump.

Some Republicans have criticized the Democratic reaction to Trump's policies, saying bombastic rhetoric and provocative legislation will inflame tensions with the president and harm California.

The debate over sanctuary cities reached a fevered pitch in 2015 after Kate Steinle, 32, was fatally shot in the back Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, who was in the country illegally after multiple deportations to his native Mexico. Lopez-Sanchez, who told police the gun fired by accident, had been released from a San Francisco jail despite a request from federal immigration authorities that he be held in custody for possible deportation. Trump often cited the Steinle case during the campaign.

Many other cities and counties in California also refuse to detain immigrants for deportation agents out of legal concerns after a federal court ruled that immigrants can't be held in jail beyond their scheduled release dates. Since then, federal agents have been asking local law enforcement agencies to provide information about immigrants they're seeking for deportation, if not hold them.

This story has been updated.

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