Supervisors vote 4-1 to oppose SB 54

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Prompted in part by a call to action from Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood, the Kern County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 Tuesday to send a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown to oppose Senate Bill 54, which prohibits state and local law enforcement agencies from collaborating with federal immigration authorities.

Youngblood urged Kern leadership to buck the state’s proposed “sanctuary” status and become a “law-abiding” county when it comes to immigration. He originally requested the Board of Supervisors to consider adopting a resolution at its May 2 meeting, but County Counsel Mark Nations said that the issue was outside of the jurisdiction of county leaders.

Instead, the item reappeared in the form of a letter drafted by staff and signed by Board of Supervisors Chair Zack Scrivner of the 2nd District.

The letter states that because the federal government is solely responsible for regulating and enforcing immigration in the United States, “SB 54, in turn, is redundant in its declaration of state sovereignty and instead has the potential to erode the fellowship between local and federal law enforcement agencies that has been cultivated for decades with the common goal to protect lives and property.

“It is particularly alarming, therefore, that the proposed legislation seems to promulgate divergence on the matter of immigration, with little regard for the potential macro implications and overall chilling effect the bill could have on other applications of cooperative federal-local law enforcement.”

The issue has kicked up controversy in Kern County, with community advocates saying it would marginalize the large population of Latinos who live and work within the county.

County Administrative Officer Ryan Alsop told the board that the bill also creates a severe public safety problem by limiting, and even eliminating, state and local peace officers’ abilities to help federal authorities in unrelated matters such as drunk driving and domestic violence.

“As proposed, the bill would complicate efforts to keep violent criminals off the street.”

Gonzalo Santos, professor of sociology at California State University, Bakersfield, requested that the board table the issue until a public hearing could be held. He said that he would like, instead, to see the board endorse SB 54, which he believes “extends protection against the harsh enforcements being taken up by the current administration.”

He said that the motivation to oppose SB 54 is “anti-Latino, anti-Muslim xenophobia.”

Bakersfield attorney H. A. Sala brought with him a letter signed by 21 attorneys also urging the board to support SB 54. Sala said that the bill only restricts cooperation on the issue of immigration. Collabor-ation between local and federal agencies could yield a violation of individual privacy, he said.

Supervisor Leticia Perez was the sole dissenter, saying she could not support opposition to SB 54 “because of the message it sends,” and because of the polarizing impact it would have on the community.

She further lamented the ex-treme view that a person must choose between supporting SB 54 or law enforcement, adding that a person of conscience could do both. 3rd District Supervisor Mike Maggard agreed with Perez on that point, and added that it was equally inappropriate to call anyone who opposes SB 54 “racist” or “xenophobic.”

Youngblood said the intent was not to punish the thousands of hard-working immigrants in Kern County, but to unhamper ongoing efforts to deport violent criminals dwelling illegally within the county.

1st District Supervisor Mick Gleason, who represents the Indian Wells Valley, said that the state should work with the federal government to deport criminals. “I don’t think California, in opposing that law, is in a righteous place.”

Story First Published: 2017-05-12