Sanctuary State Symbolism

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

With Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature on SB 54, California now calls itself a sanctuary state. There is strong symbolism in the move, although California governments’ actions relative to individuals in the country illegally will change little in many parts of the state.

Brown’s demand that some 700 additional crimes be added to the list that federal agents could use in examining immigrants changed the bill author Sen. Kevin de León’s original intent to offer sanctuary to most immigrants except those who committed the most heinous crimes.

Brown went out of his way to write in his message accompanying his signature that the bill “strikes a balance that will protect public safety.”

Opponents of Brown’s action disagree. State senator Ted Gaines predicted that California would become “a giant magnet pulling every illegal alien criminal in the country to our state.”

For many supporters of the sanctuary state bill, SB 54 did not go far enough. They accepted the final version for the message it sent, the symbolism. But they want more. Where does the push for gaining more protections for illegal immigrants go now and how far will California voters allow it to go?

It is doubtful that the list of crimes that Brown insisted be added before he signed the bill would be reduced. Even a new governor will not do that. The public safety community still remains split over the effects of the bill.

Likely there will be a push for more empowerment for immigrants. Already illegal immigrants have been granted drivers licenses. Some local governments have set up taxpayer-funded legal aid to immigrants in the country without legal documents. San Francisco voters approved a measure last November to allow parents of children in the school system, whether the parents are legal citizens or not, to vote in school board elections. Now, California declares itself a sanctuary state.

Don’t be surprised if the next push is to grow the voting franchise for non-citizen immigrants.

Symbolic measures do matter in moving public affairs debates.

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