Report: Some California Law Enforcement Agencies are Circumventing the State’s Sanctuary State Legislation

In October of 2017, California Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 54 into law. Often referred to as California’s ‘sanctuary state’ law, SB 54 puts considerable limits on how state and local law enforcement agencies can cooperate with federal immigration enforcement agencies.

According to reporting from CityLab, new data reveals that the law has had a tangible effect. At the same time, the report also found that many local law enforcement groups across the state are finding ways to circumvent the sanctuary state bill. Here, our immigration attorney in Los Angeles highlights the two key findings in this study, which was conducted by the Asian American Justice Center (AAJC).

Finding #1: The Law Has Had a Clear, Positive Impact

As President Trump took office, immigration enforcement quickly started to take more aggressive, harsh action. For example, in the first months of the administration, ICE started arresting more people at local California jails. SB 54 altered the trajectory. Indeed, after the law took effect, the number of ICE arrests in local California jails fell significantly. In the first half of 2018, immigration arrests at California jails dropped by more than 40 percent — closer to the level that they were at during the Obama Administration.

To put these numbers into perspective, researchers compare California to Texas. Immigration arrests at Texas jails also started to rise considerably after President Trump took office. Unlike California, Texas did not pass any type of sanctuary state legislation. As a result, ICE arrests at local jails in Texas continue to rise. In February of 2017, there were 60 percent more immigration arrests at Texas jails than at California jails. In May of 2018 — after SB 54 was in place — there were 500 percent more immigration arrests at Texas jails than at California jails.

Finding #2: The Impact Would Be Larger if All Police Departments Fully Complied

Although the report has found that California’s sanctuary state statute has had a real impact, the researchers also determined that the effect is somewhat reduced because some police departments in the state have found ways to circumvent the law. According to the researchers, 68 out of the 168 law enforcement agencies in the state of California are assessed to be out of compliance with SB 54.

The most glaring example of departments going around the law comes from agencies in California that have decided to post inmate information publicly on the internet — including the time and location of release — so that ICE can “independently” take enforcement action without directly cooperating with the police department. Notably, we have previously discussed the use of this tactic by Orange County officials. It is certainly out of step with the spirit of the law. Now, researchers have confirmed that it has, to some degree, undercut the effectiveness of the legislation.

Get Help From a Los Angeles Deportation Attorney Today

At the Goldstein Immigration Lawyers, we are proud to advocate for immigrants and immigrant rights in California. For a strictly confidential immigration law guidance, please call us today. From our law office in Los Angeles, we handle immigration law matters throughout the region, including in Orange County, Ventura County, and San Bernardino County.


Josh Goldstein
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