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California is now a ‘Sanctuary State’ for the Undocumented Worker

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Sacramento, CA: Last month the undocumented worker in the State of California won yet another series of protections from those seeking to send them packing for their place of origin, with the signing of Bill SB54 by Governor Jerry Brown October 5. While other states have passed laws in an attempt to better protect their immigrants and undocumented workers, TIME / AP (10/05/17) reports that SB54 is the most comprehensive basket of protections in the country, making California a so-called ‘sanctuary state.’

“These are uncertain times for undocumented Californians and their families, and this bill strikes a balance that will protect public safety, while bringing a measure of comfort to those families who are now living in fear every day,” Brown said in statement, according to the Associated Press / AP.

The reference to ‘uncertain times’ is a nod to the policy of the Trump Administration in taking a hard line on immigrants. However, according to TIME, the issue is of particular interest and importance to the Golden State in terms of the sheer magnitude of the immigration numbers, and the value undocumented workers provide to the State economy.

According to TIME, an estimated 10 million immigrants are residents of California – that’s more than the entire state of Michigan. Some 25 percent of those immigrants are thought to be undocumented.

The value and impact immigrants – including those who are undocumented – have on the state economy is significant. Thus, the designation of California as a so-called sanctuary State is not confined to concerns over decency and human rights. Were those immigrants to be deported tomorrow, the State economy would grind to a halt. Immigrants and undocumented workers are valued as agricultural workers, cleaners and custodians, nannies and other support staff for jobs that would be hard to fill without the availability and enthusiasm of immigrants.

TIME reports that SB54 went through a series of updates before it was signed into law, at the behest of organizations such as the California State Sheriff’s Association, which expressed concern about the potential for dangerous offenders to slip through the cracks.

Response to such concerns has taken the form of an allowance for cooperation between state and federal officials with regard to cases that involve particular crimes.

However, the overriding thrust of SB54 is to limit access to federal immigration enforcement through the establishment of so-called ‘safe zones’ in schools, courthouses and hospitals. TIME reports that federal agents retain the authority to enter the State of California for deportation duties or to facilitate raids. That doesn’t change. However, SB54 makes it more difficult to do so.

California Senate Leader Kevin de Leon, the sponsor of SB54, noted that it’s important for immigrants – undocumented or otherwise – to feel free to report abuses of the laws to police, or other authorities. The legislation is also aimed at providing the confidence for immigrant parents to send their children to school for an education, without reprisals.

Of course, any strengthening of supports at the State level will be helpful with regard to the pursuit of an undocumented worker lawsuit: to that end, the undocumented worker lawyer now has more to work with.

TIME also notes that California is also looking to the future, in the event the Trump Administration attempts to deny federal funding to the State as a reprisal for bringing in SB54 and other measures the State has adopted to protect immigrants and undocumented workers. To that end, California began discussions with a noted law firm soon after Trump came into office, in an effort to gain advice and insight as to the legal limitations of resistance.

While the situation remains tenuous, at the end of the day the undocumented worker can take solace in the friends they have in the State legislature. Those lawmakers who sponsor such pieces of legislation as SB54 are motivated in more ways than simply being nice…

They also recognize the value of the undocumented worker to the State economy, and are trying to protect and preserve that value.

In other words, the State needs the undocumented worker, as much as the undocumented worker needs the State…

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