LOS ANGELES — California lawmakers advanced a bill to restrict how law enforcement agencies can interact with federal immigration officers.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions warned during a press briefing last week that states with so-called sanctuary cites could lose federal grants for law enforcement – and that the federal government might claw back funding already distributed.
A sanctuary government is generally defined as one that does not require its police to inquire about a person's immigration status or forbids them from doing so.
President Donald Trump issued an executive order in December threatening federal funding to sanctuary cities.
Senate Bill 54, the California Values Act, authored by California State Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, passed the Senate with a 27-12 vote and moves on to the Assembly.
The measure prevents local law enforcement officers from being "deputized" to do the work of federal immigration officers, according to de Leon, but also maintains that jurisdictions will give U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement agents a 60-day notice before releasing undocumented violent and serious felons from state prisons.
"Our precious local law enforcement resources will be squandered if police are pulled from their duties to arrest otherwise law-abiding maids, busboys, labors, mothers and fathers," de Leon said. "Crimes will go unreported for fear of deportation. Criminals will remain free to victimize others."
S&P Global Ratings analysts affirmed their view last week that the Trump administration's stance on sanctuary cities isn't likely to impact city credit ratings after Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued his warning last week.
"In our view, federal budget laws and legal precedent limit the president's administrative authority to withhold funding by executive order, absent congressional approval," S&P analysts wrote.
Actions by several states to create "sanctuary states" could impact federal funding those states receive from the federal government, however, which could have a larger impact, S&P said.
Supporters rallied around de Leon at a press conference following Senate passage of the bill.
De Leon called the bill's approval "an acknowledgement of the cultural and economic contributions made to our great state by immigrants and is a rejection of President Trump's false and cynical portrayal of undocumented residents as a lawless community."
S&P analysts viewed actions at the state level to be more of a risk for local jurisdictions than Trump's executive order.
Maryland, New York and California are contemplating legislation that would limit local law enforcement's involvement in enforcing immigration laws. Texas has gone in the opposite direction by threatening to withhold funding to local jurisdictions that fail to detain someone at the request of federal immigration officials.
"We see more extensive credit risk to local governments potentially resulting from actions at the state level, either if state funding to sanctuary local governments is withheld or if there are cuts of federal aid to state governments that eventually impact local governments," S&P analysts wrote in the March 30 report.
Lawmakers in New York and Maryland are considering bills that limit the activities of state employees in regards to immigration enforcement and data collection, which would make them sanctuary states.
"If these bills become law, federal funding at the state level could be compromised, which is notable because federal funds generally represent a greater share of state budgets than local government budgets," S&P analysts wrote. "Our analysis has so far been limited to the impact on sanctuary cities, but budgetary pressures at the state level often translate into local problems due to reduced revenue sharing."