Amid nationwide debate over California’s sanctuary state law, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra issued guidelines on Wednesday instructing law enforcement on how to comply with Senate Bill 54.
Becerra’s guidelines state SB 54 prohibits law enforcement agencies in California from holding inmates on immigration detainers and from using resources to investigate or arrest individuals for immigration related reasons. Law enforcement agencies in the state can still cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), but only in very limited circumstances.
“We’re not going to let the Trump Administration coerce us into doing the federal government’s job of enforcing federal immigration law,” Becerra said in a statement. “We’re in the business of public safety, not deportation.”
According to Becerra’s guidance, law enforcement agencies in California are never required to respond to ICE transfers or notification requests. Officers can honor an inmate transfer request if the transfer is authorized by a judicial warrant or judicial probable cause determination regarding a violation of federal immigration law.
Law enforcement in California can also honor a transfer request if the suspect has been convicted of a violent felony; has been convicted of a felony that is currently punishable by prison time; is a registered sex offender or arsonist in California; has been convicted of aggravated felonies identified in the federal Immigration and Nationality Act; or has been identified by ICE as having an outstanding federal felony arrest warrant for a felony crime.
Additionally, if law enforcement agencies transfer individuals to immigration authorities, they must report to the state Department of Justice the number of transfers they make in a year, as well as the offenses that were the reasons for the transfers.
Law enforcement agencies in the state can only provide information to immigration authorities about an inmate’s release date if the information is available to the public, if the inmate meets transfer request requirements or if a judge finds probable cause the person has committed a serious or violent felony.
The guidelines further state conviction of a misdemeanor is not justification for honoring a transfer or notification request. Likewise, crimes that have been reclassified as misdemeanors by Prop. 47, too, cannot be cited as reason for law enforcement in California to turn over an inmate or the inmate’s release date to ICE.
Other prohibitions stated in the guidelines include bans on law enforcement agencies allowing officers to be supervised by federal agencies, using immigration authorities as interpreters for matters relating to individuals in custody, providing office space for immigration authorities and entering into contracts with federal agencies to house or detain noncitizens.
Law enforcement in California can investigate or detain a person for reentering the country following deportation only if the individual was deported because of an aggravated felony and the suspected offense was detected during unrelated law enforcement activity.