Another View: Safe Placer County should support SB54 and the Constitution

By: Jan Bell
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The Placer County Republican Central Committee’s News Release states:  “Asks Board of Supervisors to ‘keep our neighborhoods safe and tell the state that they will direct the sheriff to comply with federal law,’” in defiance of SB54 The California Values Act, signed into law Oct. 5, 2017.

This request is ironic given Placer County is one of the safest counties in California with only 1.6 violent crimes per 1,000 people (vs. 3.96 in California) and 18.4 property crimes per 1,000 people (vs. 24.41 in California). Also, Placer County’s 20 Most Wanted List has 19 white and 1 Latino, so 5 percent of the list is Latino while the county’s Latino population is 13.8 percent. 

Let’s be clear what SB54 does. It allows local law enforcement to cooperate with federal immigration authorities when “the individual has been convicted of a serious or violent felony,” which includes a list of 35 crimes specified in SB54: assault, battery, sexual abuse, child abuse, burglary, driving under the influence, bribery, escape, unlawful possession or use of a weapon, an offense involving the felony possession, sale or trafficking of controlled substances, gang-related offenses, a crime resulting in death, or involving great bodily injury, etc.  

Since being in the United States illegally is a civil, not a criminal offense (U.S. Code 1325), SB54 restricts local law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration authorities when an immigrant detainee has not committed a serious or violent felony. SB54 protects a detainee’s 4th Amendment right of equal protection under the law, which disallows targeting on the basis of race or ethnicity. The U.S. Constitution’s 4th Amendment reads “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated …”  The 4th Amendment uses the word “people,” not the word “citizen,” as our laws protect any person in the United States regardless of their status.

Our country has always separated federal law enforcement and local law enforcement, for a number of excellent reasons. It’s surprising that Republicans, who usually insist on smaller government and state rights, are now asking our local police to be under the authority of federal agents.

Author Mike Males in a Feb. 21, 2017 article in the Los Angeles Times wrote: “President Trump has cast California as ‘out of control’ because of proposed legislation (SB54) that would make the entire state a sanctuary for illegal immigrants, who, he says, ‘breed crime.’ But in reality, as California’s immigrant population has grown, its crime and violence rates have plummeted.”

Explaining this irrational fear of immigrants, an article entitled “Stranger Danger” in the January 20-26 Economist states: “That America is in a fix over immigration is perhaps unsurprising.  Through its history, periods of high immigration have always provoked a backlash — thus, the restrictive measures passed in the early 1920s after an influx from southern and eastern Europe, and again in the early 1960s, to expel thousands of low-skilled Mexicans. It is a cycle as American as the opportunity the country otherwise affords immigrants.”

One of my Latino friends said he has recently experienced racial slurs in Placer County, which he hasn’t in the past. He’s a U.S. citizen, law-abiding, hard-working, and a family man.  Let’s acknowledge how safe we are here in Placer County, give thanks to our sheriff and police officers for keeping us safe, and avoid this immigrant backlash from dividing us from our neighbors.

Our Board of Supervisors should continue to support SB54. 

Read the full text of SB54 at:

Jan Bell is the Auburn Area Democratic Club president. Contact her at and 530-887-1083.