In December 2016, shortly after the November 8 presidential election, members of the California Legislature introduced for consideration a series of bills addressing immigration enforcement. Within the series, three bills would place limitations on a public agency’s ability to participate in federal immigration enforcement efforts and collect personal information regarding an individual’s religion, national origin or ethnicity:
- Assembly Bill 699 – Safe Schools for Immigrant Students: AB 699 seeks to establish various policies and protections governing public school districts and charter schools in order to promote safe and equitable learning environments for all pupils, regardless of their immigration status. In this vein, AB 699 expressly protects persons in public schools from discrimination, harassment, intimidation or bullying based on their immigration status. AB 699 also seeks to provide direction to school officials and Local Educational Agencies by creating rules for the place, manner, and procedure for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials seeking to enter a public schoolsite. Under the bill, school officials are prohibited from allowing an ICE official or employee to enter a schoolsite for any purpose, without first providing valid identification, a written statement of the purpose of the visit, a valid judicial warrant or court order, and approval to enter the schoolsite from the superintendent of the school district, the superintendent of the county office of education or the principal of the charter school. Furthermore, even if the ICE agent meets these requirements, schools would be required to limit access to facilities where pupils are not present. AB 699 also prohibits school officials from collecting information or documents about the immigration status of pupils or their families. AB 699 encourages schools to work with students’ families to update emergency contact information in the event that a pupil’s parent or guardian is taken into custody. Schools would be encouraged to contact all persons on the emergency contact list before engaging Child Protective Services to arrange for the pupil’s care. Lastly, the bill would require school districts to provide counseling and other support services to pupils who are affected by federal immigration enforcement activities.
- Senate Bill 31 – California Religious Freedom Act: SB 31 would establish the California Religious Freedom Act. The Act would prohibit a state or local agency or public employee holding him or herself out as an agent of the agency from providing or disclosing to the federal government personal information regarding an individual’s religious beliefs, practices or affiliation, when the information is sought for compiling a database of individuals based on religious belief, practice, or affiliation, based on national origin or based on ethnicity for law enforcement or immigration purposes. In the event that the federal government were to enact laws or regulations requiring persons to register their religion, national origin, or ethnicity, SB 31 would also prohibit state and local law enforcement from using agency or department moneys, facilities, property, equipment or personnel to investigate, enforce, or assist in the investigation or enforcement of violations of these laws or regulations. The bill would prohibit state and local law enforcement agencies and their employees from collecting information on religious belief, practice, or affiliation from any individual except (1) as part of a targeted investigation based on a reasonable suspicion that the individual has engaged in or been the victim of criminal activity where such activity has a clear connection to religious belief, practice, or affiliation, or (2) when necessary to provide religious accommodations. However, agencies may still compile aggregate non-personal information about religious belief, practice, or affiliation, national origin or ethnicity, and share such information with other local, state or federal agencies. SB 31 would take effect immediately upon the Governor’s signature.
- Senate Bill 54 – California Values Act: SB 54 establishes the California Values Act. The Act would prohibit state and local law enforcement agencies, including school police and security departments, from using their resources to carry out immigration enforcement activities. Such activities include, but are not limited to, making arrests based on civil immigration warrants; performing the functions of an immigration officer; inquiring into an individual’s immigration status and providing an individual’s personal information to federal immigration authorities. Despite these limitations, local and state law enforcement agencies will continue to be permitted to:
- share with federal immigration authorities information about an individual’s criminal history;
- make inquiries necessary to grant visas to potential victims of crime or trafficking;
- respond to a notification request by federal immigration authorities regarding persons currently serving sentences for violent felonies; and
- participate in a joint law enforcement task force with federal agencies, so long as the primary purpose of that task force is not immigration enforcement.
However, to the extent that a state or local law enforcement agency chooses to participate in joint law enforcement task forces with federal immigration agencies, the agency would be required to issue a report every six (6) months regarding the joint activities. Finally, the bill would require all public schools, including elementary and secondary schools, charter schools, the California Community Colleges and the California State University, public libraries, and specified healthcare facilities and courthouses to implement a model policy, to be drafted by the California Attorney General, which prohibits public school assistance with immigration enforcement activities. Other entities would be encouraged to establish the model policy.
All three bills are currently making their way through the various fiscal and policy committees of the State Assembly and Senate. This week, Governor Brown issued a revised state budget, popularly known as the “May Revision,” which reallocates certain budget items based on the State’s financial outlook. To the extent that these bills have a fiscal impact, their future success will depend on the changes the Government made to the State budget.
We will provide you updates in the coming months regarding the status of these bills.