LOS ANGELES — California Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday signed “sanctuary state” legislation limiting local law enforcement officials’ ability to cooperate with federal immigration authorities, the latest effort by Democrats here to blunt the effects of President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.
The enactment of the bill, whose passage Brown helped negotiate last month, comes amid intense conflict over immigration between Trump and California, home to an estimated more than 2 million undocumented immigrants.
Flanked by cheering supporters in Los Angeles, California Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León said California is “building a wall” against Trump and what he called a “sickening rise in racism” since his election.
The “sanctuary state” bill prohibits local officials from asking about a person’s immigration status or from working in many cases with federal immigration agents. But the measure was significantly weakened before passage to gain Brown’s support, allowing local agencies to work with immigration authorities on cases involving immigrants convicted of a wide range of crimes.
“These are uncertain times for undocumented Californians and their families," Brown said in a rare signing statement, “and this bill strikes a balance that will protect public safety, while bringing a measure of comfort to those families who
Brown noted that the bill “does not prevent or prohibit Immigration and Customs Enforcement or the Department of Homeland Security from doing their own work in any way.”
Even so, a Department of Justice spokesman has called the bill an attempt “to codify a commitment to returning criminal aliens back onto our streets,” while Attorney Jeff Sessions denounced the measure as “unconscionable.”
Brown signed the bill a week after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced it had arrested nearly 500 people on immigration violations during a four-day operation focused on “sanctuary cities,” including in and around Los Angeles.
On Thursday, de León pledged California “will resist” the Trump administration on immigration. He spoke outside a Los Angeles school near where the videotaped detainment of Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez sparked national uproar. Avelica-Gonzalez, who was later released, stood alongside de León to celebrate the bill’s enactment.
The “sanctuary state” bill is a latest of a series of measures designed to protect undocumented immigrants in heavily Democratic California. The state has previously granted undocumented immigrants driver’s licenses and made them eligible for college financial aid.