Statewide California 'sanctuary' bill tweaked but still faces pushback

File: The California State Assembly met for an organizational session where lawmakers took the oath of office at the Capitol in Sacramento on Dec. 1, 2014.
File: The California State Assembly met for an organizational session where lawmakers took the oath of office at the Capitol in Sacramento on Dec. 1, 2014.
Rich Pedroncelli/AP

California Democrats are making a measure that prevents law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration officials less severe in an effort to make it more acceptable to police agencies.

They moved Monday to set up a full Senate vote later this month despite continued resistance to creating a statewide sanctuary for people in the country illegally. It is one of several bills that lawmakers in the nation's most populous state are fast-tracking to try to impede President Donald Trump's immigration policies.

SB54 would bar police and sheriffs from arresting or detaining people just for immigration violations unless a judge issues a warrant. State and local law enforcement agencies would not be able to help investigate immigration violations, inquire about someone's immigration status or provide addresses to federal immigration officers.

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, recently amended the legislation to allow California authorities notify federal immigration officials 60 days before violent felons are released from state prisons or local jails so they can be deported.

The change isn't enough to lift what otherwise is a communications ban with U.S. authorities and it won't safeguard counties' potential loss of millions of dollars in funding for housing federal detainees, testified Cory Salzillo of the California State Sheriffs' Association.

The group remains opposed to the bill, along with other law enforcement organizations.

Sen. Patricia Bates, R-Laguna Niguel, noted that the amendment only will allow police to notify federal officials if an immigrant is convicted of about two-dozen violent crimes, while leaving out numerous serious offenses.

"I think we're all together in this that we don't want any violent felons to be in our community," de Leon said in promising to continue working with opponents. He denied that counties would lose significant money.

The Senate Appropriations Committee on Monday sent the measure to the full Senate for a vote, although finance officials say they don't know the cost.

Over Republicans' opposition, the committee also voted along party lines to advance SB6, which would provide $12 million to pay lawyers for immigrants facing deportation, and SB31, which would bar state officials from sharing data if the federal government creates a Muslim registry.

They advanced after emotional testimony on both sides.

Pedro Figueroa Zarceno recalled in Spanish how his 8-year-old daughter cried out to him as immigration agents led him away in handcuffs during President Barack Obama's administration when he tried to retrieve his stolen car that had been recovered.

"It undermines the trust that people have in police," he said through an interpreter.

Lupe Morfin Moreno of Los Angeles recalled how her 13-year-old nephew was killed in 1989 by an immigrant in the country illegally. The representative of the California Coalition for Immigration Reform read a list of others "whose children have been slaughtered and murdered."