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California bill to strip sanctuary state protections from fentanyl dealers fails

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(The Center Square) – A California bill that would have stripped fentanyl dealers of the state’s sanctuary state immigration protections failed in committee. California sanctuary state laws prohibit coordination with ICE on drug cases until after a federal felony drug conviction is secured.

This bill would have allowed communication with federal authorities for felony fentanyl trafficking or dealing offenses during the earlier investigatory period.

“California’s sanctuary state laws have a chilling effect on law enforcement’s ability to effectively communicate with their federal counterparts,” said Republican bill author Assemblywoman Kate Sanchez to The Center Square. “This unfortunately makes it much harder to deport dangerous felons and to keep our communities safe.”

A recent San Francisco Chronicle investigation found the Bay Area’s fentanyl is produced in Mexico with Chinese chemicals, smuggled in and distributed by Latin American drug cartels, and largely sold by Honduran illegal immigrants.

“San Francisco’s status as a sanctuary city makes it more attractive to the Honduran dealers, some of them said, because it means a lower risk of lengthy jail time and deportation if convicted,” wrote Chronicle journalists Megan Cassidy and Gabrielle Lurie. “Under the central tenet of the sanctuary law, the city jail does not allow ICE to place holds on local prisoners so they can be picked up upon release and deported. The only way most dealers face deportation is if they are arrested on federal charges or in another city.”

In an Assembly Public Safety Committee exchange with Ray Grangoff, representing the Orange County Sheriff’s Department — which endorsed the bill — California legislators asked exactly what current law allows.

“We’re trying to communicate with our federal partners about this serious threat of fentanyl,” said Grangoff. “That’s what this piece of legislation is trying to solve.”

“So you’re telling me that in a fentanyl case you cannot communicate with ICE,” asked Assemblymember Philip Ting, D-San Francisco.

“Correct,” said Grangoff.

State and local law enforcement groups widely endorsed the bill.

Opponents of the bill clarified local law enforcement can only communicate with ICE after a felony conviction has been secured, or in the rare occasion when a judge has issued an order based on the high probability the individual will be convicted.

“One of the biggest concerns is that this would allow that communication on allegation, which could be coming far shorter than arrest. That could be the officer engaging with someone in the street and conscious or not, engaging in pre-textual profiling, with ICE being brought in,” said ACLU Senior Staff Attorney Sean Riordan to the committee. “The other is as you’re creating a situation where law enforcement has a desire to communicate where there is not a conviction at all and the state should not countenance that.”

The committee’s two Republicans voted to pass the bill to the Appropriations Committee, while the remaining five Democrats voted no or abstained, killing the bill.

A similar sanctuary state exemption bill by Assemblymember Bill Essayli, R-Woodcrest, would require law enforcement to comply with federal immigration authorities in cases involving illegals convicted of child sex crimes. A hearing has not yet been set for this bill.