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How the new sanctuary state law will affect local law enforcement

FILE: Men wearing neon-colored jail clothes signifying immigration detainees walk to pick up their lunches at the Theo Lacy Facility, a county jail which houses convicted criminals as well as immigration detainees on March 14, 2017 in Orange, California.
FILE: Men wearing neon-colored jail clothes signifying immigration detainees walk to pick up their lunches at the Theo Lacy Facility, a county jail which houses convicted criminals as well as immigration detainees on March 14, 2017 in Orange, California.
ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

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The new California law known as the sanctuary state law takes effect on Jan. 1 and will further restrict cooperation between local police and federal immigration agents.

The law forbids state and local law enforcement from using resources or staff to help federal agents deport immigrants, both authorized and unauthorized. The immediate effects on local law enforcement agencies depend on how closely they cooperate with immigration officials now.

The Orange County Sheriff’s department announced that effective Wednesday it was no longer participating in the federal-local program known as 287(g), which has trained county deputies to screen jail inmates for their immigration status, place a hold on those deemed deportable, and notify immigration agents.

Orange County had been the only government entity in the state still participating in the program, although a handful of other jurisdictions in the country have done so as well. 

“Our local control is limited," said Ray Grangoff, Orange County Sheriff's Department spokesman. "ICE is going to be the one that has sole responsibility for identifying the individuals.”

Grangoff said officials of ICE, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, may still ask for notification once someone is released. The county may provide that notice, so long as the individual involved has been convicted of a serious or violent crime as outlined in the state law. 

Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens, along with some other local sheriffs, opposed the sanctuary state proposal. She said at the time that it would endanger public safety by restricting local law enforcement cooperation with federal agencies. But her department said in a statement that she "now has the legal obligation to abide by the provisions of the law."

S.B. 54 prohibits state and local law enforcement from taking such actions as inquiring about someone's immigration status, detaining an individual at the request of immigration agents, arresting someone based on a civil immigration warrant, or participating in programs that deputize local police as immigration agents, such as 287(g).

The law does allow some cooperation, however. It permits local and state authorities to share information with immigration officials if a person in their custody has been convicted of one of several hundred serious or violent crimes. 

Louis DeSipio, University of California, Irvine political scientist, said for many local counties that had already limited their cooperation with ICE, the impact of the sanctuary state law should be minimal.

"For many jurisdictions that have been sort of on the forefront of pursuing their own sanctuary policies, this doesn't change much," DeSipio said. "The effects of this new law will be felt in the more rural counties that were never at the forefront of sanctuary policies, and, of course, in Orange County."

Los Angeles police officials said in an email to KPCC that many of the provisions of the new law "are already longstanding LAPD practice.”

Nicole Nishida, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman, said while the county counsel is still reviewing the matter, the only changes the department has identified so far deal with the kinds of crimes that warrant cooperation with immigration agents.

A spokesman for the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department said he also expected the impact of the law to be minimal.

Immigration officials have decried the new law, saying it will "undermine public safety and hinder ICE from performing its federally mandated mission."

ICE Deputy Director Thomas Homan said in a statement in October that "ICE will have no choice but to conduct at-large arrests in local neighborhoods and at worksites, which will inevitably result in additional collateral arrests, instead of focusing on arrests at jails and prisons where transfers are safer for ICE officers and the community."

Collateral arrests occur when immigrants other than those targeted by federal agents are taken into custody as part of an enforcement action.