Take it from this California-born and reared native, the Golden State was once the greatest place in the world. “Once,” that’s the key word. The California I grew up in didn’t have today’s rampant urban sprawl, paralyzing traffic jams, killer criminal gangs, or widespread crushing poverty, the by-product of one of the nation’s highest income inequality gaps where the top one percent earns nearly 30 times more than the lower 99 percent.
Back in the day when California’s public school system was hailed as the country’s best, my primary school had a nice mix of upper- and middle-income kids. That’s ancient history. The middle class sends its children to private schools, even if they have to go into hock. Public schools are too overcrowded, too unsafe, and unable to provide an education that will prepare students for college. In the Los Angeles Unified School District, 80 percent of students live in poverty versus the 25 percent national average. Good luck learning on an empty stomach.
The biggest change, one that’s impossible to wrap my head around, is that California is now a sanctuary state – as in a sanctuary for criminal aliens. Recently, California lawmakers approved the laughingly named California Values Act, SB 54, which limits state and local law enforcement communication with federal immigration authorities, and prevents officers from questioning and holding people on immigration violations even though such violations are crimes.
The California Sheriffs Association argued that SB 54 would put communities at risk, and make neighborhoods unsafe. But too bad for those communities and neighborhoods that sheriffs want to protect. California went all-in on shielding illegal aliens and, through SB 54, identified a long list of safe public places that Immigration and Customs Enforcement can’t enter. In the United States illegally? Commit a crime? Go hang out in a school yard or hospital lobby until ICE goes away.
For those who may think that California has so many illegal immigrants that special legislation is vital to serve their needs even if it protects criminals, the truth is that the state has 13 times more citizens and legal permanent residents than aliens. According to a UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies’ poll, 74 percent of those citizens and legal residents, Republicans and Democrats alike including two out of three Latinos, oppose sanctuary cities. Sacramento to sanctuary critics: put a sock in it!
Sacramento is celebrating. SB 54’s author, Senate Pro Tem President Kevin de Leon, promised to “freeze out ICE,” and is taking bows. Earlier this year, de Leon boasted that half his family entered the U.S. illegally and committed rampant identify theft to get jobs, a confession that might disqualify most from high office, but in California made him an exalted candidate.
SB 54 directly violates federal laws that prohibit aiding and abetting illegal immigrants, and defies the Oath of Office California legislators take to defend the U.S. and California Constitutions. Legally, the Trump administration could bring charges against de Leon, and Governor Jerry Brown. As a Yale Law School graduate, Brown knows that SB 54 breaks federal immigration law, but why should he sweat the small stuff when he gets so much media adulation, and prosecutions are unlikely?
The SB 54 ball is squarely in the Trump administration’s court. Various Trump immigration campaign promises have been stalled, most notably building the wall and ending deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA). Trump needs to revitalize his wobbly base, and SB 54 provides him with a perfect opportunity to fulfill his vows to enforce immigration laws.