Terry McLaughlin: The Golden (Sanctuary) State? | TheUnion.com
Terry McLaughlin
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Terry McLaughlin: The Golden (Sanctuary) State?

Californians strongly oppose sanctuary city policies, according to a poll released by UC Berkeley's Institute of Governmental Studies.

In the fall of 2015, the survey found that 74 percent of respondents did not believe local authorities should be able to ignore a federal request to hold a detained person who is in the country illegally. This opposition crossed the political and ethnic spectrum with 65 percent of Hispanics, 70 percent of Independents, 82 percent of Republicans, and 73 percent of Democrats against the concept.

"We found a very broad-based opposition to the idea of sanctuary cities," said Director Jack Citrin, a professor of political science at UC Berkeley. "Californians want their local officials to abide by the requests of federal authorities."

Eighteen months later, the polling shows a greater partisan divide, but a majority of Californians remain in opposition.

President Trump has threatened to hold back federal reimbursements to states that defy federal immigration laws. California receives more than $350 billion in federal funding each year, and is now calling the President’s bluff.

The Public Policy Institute of California estimates the Golden State is home to 2.35 to 2.6 million immigrants without legal standing. With very little public discussion and no opportunity to vote, despite the majority opposition of the citizens of California, SB54, the "California Values Act," passed the State Senate on April 3 with a 27-12 party line vote.

Better known as the "Sanctuary State Bill," SB54 has moved to the State Assembly, and if approved by the Assembly, it will head to Governor Brown's desk. This bill will prohibit state and local law enforcement agencies from assisting in federal immigration enforcement, inquiring about immigration status and providing federal immigration authorities access to interview a person already in custody. Before passage by the Senate, the bill was amended to allow state and local law enforcement to notify federal immigration agents before releasing a previously convicted violent felon from custody — a small concession to the safety of our residents.

President Trump has threatened to hold back federal reimbursements to states that defy federal immigration laws. In 2016-2017, California is due to receive $96 Billion from the federal government, about 36% of its total budget. Either our elected officials do not believe President Trump will really cut funds to our state, or they care more about making a political statement than they do about their constituents.

My money is on President Trump and Attorney General Sessions doing exactly what they said they would do, and our state legislators will be responsible for the resulting consequences to California's citizens.

The state hired former Attorney General Eric Holder and his firm, Covington and Burling, to advise California officials on their strategies to defy federal regulations, including immigration laws, paying the firm $25,000 per month of your tax money for 40 hours of work each month. In addition, the State Senate has passed SB6, which would provide $12 million of taxpayer money to pay state-appointed lawyers to represent immigrants facing deportation. Senate Bill 29 bars state or local law enforcement agencies from contracting with federal or private detention facilities to detain illegal immigrants. Critics predict that this bill will likely lead to serious over-crowding in local detention facilities.

California lawmakers are threatening to prohibit any companies who bid on building a wall along the Southern border from bidding on any future contracts within the state. In addition, Assemblyman Phil Ting and two of his colleagues are sponsoring a bill that would force the state's two largest public pension funds to divest themselves of any investments in companies that dare to bid or work on a border wall, regardless of the negative economic consequences to our state or public pension liabilities which would certainly result.

Californians are divided in their opinion about the cost, the merit or the effectiveness of building a wall to protect the border.

While compelling arguments can be made on both sides, it should be noted that reinforced fences and walls have marked our southern border for decades without controversy. Today, they stretch across one-third of the border, including 46 miles of the 60-mile boundary between San Diego and Mexico. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, "While barbed wire had been strung between parts of San Ysidro in the 1950s, that barrier was easily foiled. In the 1980s, migrants overran the border … some dashing across Interstate 5.

"The breaking point came in 1986, when Border Patrol agents in San Diego apprehended 629,656 people, slightly more than the population of Las Vegas."

In 1989, during the George H.W. Bush administration, construction began on a new layer of fencing in San Diego County. A line of surplus helicopter landing pads, turned on their side and welded together, spread 46 miles east, rising to heights of 6 to 10 feet. In 1996, under Bill Clinton's administration, a secondary layer, 13 miles long and 15 to 18 feet high, was added. A third layer was added a few years later in heavily trafficked spots.

Whatever your personal feelings may be, the concept of border barriers did not originate with Donald Trump, but has been a practice utilized for decades, through both Republican and Democratic administrations.

With Senate Bill 54, California's legislators are not only defying the federal government, they are defying the wishes of the citizens of this state. If you are not among the Californians who support the concept of a sanctuary state, you should keep these facts in mind the next time you go to the polls to vote.

Terry McLaughlin, who lives in Nevada City, writes a twice monthly column for The Union. Write to her at terrymclaughlin2016@gmail.com.

UPDATE: This story has been updated to correct an error. In 2016-2017 California is due to receive $96 Billion from the federal government, about 36% of it’s total budget