Could California Really Become a Sanctuary State?

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SACRAMENTO -- Opponents of California becoming the nation’s first sanctuary state voiced their concerns at the state Capitol Monday morning, as lawmakers continue their push to pass sanctuary status in light of the Trump administration’s more rigid stance on immigration.

"The people who've demonstrated a willingness to victimize others, I have no sympathy for them. They have to go,” said Sacramento Sheriff Scott Jones, who led the opposition Monday.

Senate Bill 54, the sanctuary state bill, would prohibit local law enforcement like the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department from helping immigration agents track down targets for deportation.

Jones said right now his office only notifies immigration officials about an undocumented person if they're already in jail for a violent crime.

He and others say the sanctuary state bill would force immigration agents to hit the streets.

"The very thing that SB 54 is trying to prevent which is large-scale ICE immigration sweeps in the communities, they're almost ensuring that's going to happen,” said Jones.

"If we give them that low-lying fruit to go after those felons, they will never have time to go into the community and pick up 'Dreamers,'” said Republican Assemblyman Joel Anderson, another opponent of the idea.

"We're not looking for a fight, a fight has been brought to our doorstep…and we're not backing down,” said Democratic Assemblyman Rob Bonta of Oakland, who co-authored SB 54.

He said the bill came largely in response to the Trump administration's immigration stance.

Opponents say the bill forces California's own law enforcement to break federal laws, however, Bonta disagrees.

"There's a 10th amendment that says a federal government can't come and commandeer or conscript states and localities and make them use resources the way the federal government wishes,” said Bonta.

Still, Jones says establishing the nation's first sanctuary state only makes it harder to protect undocumented families in Sacramento -- something he says his deputies already do.

"We have never been engaged in ICE enforcement in the community. We never ask what someone's immigration status is,” said Jones.

California, as a state, cannot create its own immigration laws, but can create its own public safety laws -- which lawmakers say SB 54 is.