A week and a half ago, California lawmakers passed the “California Values Act.” Reading the title of the bill, you may have been optimistic that California was actually promoting something moral. Allow me to dash your hopes.
The bill, which waits on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk, prevents the deportation of illegal immigrants and protects their criminal activity.
Local law enforcement is prohibited from stopping illegal immigrants to ask about citizenship status. The bill blocks local enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration officials — Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) — preventing the transmission of data regarding illegal immigrants suspected of criminal activity. It reads: “This bill would, among other things and subject to exceptions, prohibit state and local law enforcement agencies…from using money or personnel to investigate, interrogate, detain, detect, or arrest persons for immigration enforcement purposes.”
California lawmakers are effectively tying local law enforcement’s hands behind their backs. Some lawmakers claim that crime from immigrants is a non-issue, but the facts say otherwise. According to a Government Accountability Office report, immigrants — both legal and illegal — make up 27 percent of inmates in federal prison. Even though non-citizens only account for 9 percent of the population, they commit crimes at three times the rate of the natural-born citizen. The crimes range from robbery to assault and murder.
But the risk of increased crime is irrelevant to California lawmakers. Their main goal is to oppose President Donald Trump’s crackdown on immigration. Senator Kevin de León, president pro tempore of the California State Senate and author of the bill, has even confessed that half of his family is in the country illegally. He also openly stated that the bill is designed to prevent the President from enforcing federal laws and is the only way to “stop the Trump deportation machine.”
The California State Sheriff’s Association criticized the legislature for choosing “political symbolism over public safety.”
In support of the bill, Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck said law enforcement must earn the confidence of illegal immigrants: “We do not want to lose trust, because we believe trust is the most important thing in policing.”
Why is the confidence of those in the country illegally prioritized over that of legal citizens? As a Californian, I no longer feel protected knowing law enforcement could be forced to release criminals onto the streets. If law is not enforced, trust between law enforcement and the community is impossible.
The rule of law has been desecrated. Not only are illegal immigrants allowed to roam free, but their criminal actions will be safeguarded. Sandra Hutchins, Orange County sheriff, pointed out the alarming consequences of the bill, saying the legislation “would prohibit me as a sheriff from notifying [ICE] of someone who’s in custody for a felony such as domestic violence, human trafficking or rape and the potential felon would be released to the street.”
If Sandra attempted to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement, the state could prosecute her for doing her duty to protect her community.
In the short term, illegal immigrants turned criminals will be released onto the streets — free to wreak havoc on Californians without fear of detainment or deportation.
In the long term, the erosion of the rule of law will threaten the very framework of our nation’s government. The rule of law allows citizens to freely exercise their rights — no man is given preferential treatment under the law and each person’s ability to exercise their God-given rights is safeguarded.
Without the rule of law, tyranny will rule the day.
Ryan Murphy is a junior studying politics.