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California State Senator Speaks On Recently-Approved Sanctuary State Bill

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Yesterday, state legislators approved a bill that would make California a so-called sanctuary state, sending the bill to Governor Jerry Brown. The legislation is meant to offer additional protections for people living in the country without authorization. The Trump administration has already issued a statement blasting the measure.

We wanted to hear more about what the bill would do. So we called the sponsor state senator Kevin de Leon. He's a Democrat from Los Angeles, a member of the state Senate leadership. And he's with us now from his home there. Senator, thanks so much for joining us.

KEVIN DE LEON: Good afternoon, Michel.

MARTIN: So what can state and local law enforcement now do and not do under this measure? How does this differ from the status quo?

DE LEON: Let me say that there's little question about President Trump's intentions when it comes to our hardworking immigrants. He has worn his nationalistic xenophobic tendencies on his sleeve throughout the presidential campaign and since his inauguration. So we make it very clear that the ICE agents - the federal government, President Trump - cannot deputize our local police officers. They can not enlist them as a cog in the Trump deportation machine.

We also make it very clear that we limit immigration enforcement actions at public schools, hospitals, courthouses and where all California residents should feel safe regardless of their immigration status. Now, we did have very hard negotiations - no doubt - with the governor as well as law enforcement. But I do believe we found a nice compromise that protects our communities while at the same time upholds public safety.

MARTIN: The acting director of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, issued a statement almost immediately saying that California politicians have chosen to prioritize politics over public safety. It says further in the statement that the legislation serves to, quote, "codify a dangerous policy that deliberately obstructs our country's immigration laws and shelters serious criminal alien offenders." How do you respond to that?

DE LEON: I don't believe the interim director to ICE, Thomas Homan, is correct. When it comes to public safety, law enforcement is split. But when we have every single police chief in California remove their opposition to the measure, and at the same time, you have immigrant rights advocates, faith clergy leaders up and down the state of California, education, health care our leaders come out in full support of the measure - that means we're doing something right, unlike what's happening in Washington today.

MARTIN: The Trump administration has threatened sanctions, if I can call it that, against jurisdictions that don't cooperate with federal immigration authorities. Are you concerned about that?

DE LEON: Well, Michel, I can say this - is that we won't move forward with a gun pressed against our head with these threats from Jeff Sessions and the Department of Justice. Our attorney, which is the former attorney general of the United States, Eric Holder, has filed an amicus brief with the city of Chicago on behalf of the California State Senate.

So far, in a federal court in Chicago, we have already won the first round, where a federal judge stated very clearly that the federal government, specifically the Department of Justice, cannot threaten local municipalities or states with withholding precious dollars that, quite frankly, belong to the people of California as well as the rest of the country. To withhold these dollars is highly irresponsible. In fact, it's reprehensible.

MARTIN: That was California State Senator Kevin de Leon. He's the sponsor of the so-called California Values Act, which offers additional protections for California's undocumented immigrants. He was nice enough to join us from his home in Los Angeles. Senator, thanks so much for speaking with us.

DE LEON: Thank you so much. Have a great day. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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