California Values Bill SB-54: What It Is About and Why It is Important to Women by Cherise Charleswell

This post originally appear on The Hampton Institute on August 9th, 2017.

California Legislation, particularly health policy and those dealing with public safety, is of great importance to the United States as a whole; and this is because California has always stood out as a leader and innovator. Other states, and even the Federal government, often look to the precedents set by California, and subsequently go on to pass the same or similar policies. As stated in a 2012 article , California sets trends in health regulation , “Some advocates tout the state as a forward-thinking vanguard in which its health and safety laws are routinely emulated by other states”.

In short, California’s laws shape and set standards for the rest of the country.

The California Values Bill SB-54 is often incorrectly referred to as the Sanctuary City Bill. The phrase “sanctuary city bill” is inaccurate because there is unfortunately no guarantee of sanctuary in the U.S. City officials do not have the power to outright stop the federal government from deporting people in their communities. Cities and States could merely choose to carry out a symbolic policy – which includes having local police abstain from helping federal authorities identify, detain, or deport any immigrants that entered the U.S. illegally.

What exactly is a Sanctuary City?

In 1996, the 104th U.S. Congress passed Pub. L. 104-208, also known as the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act ( IIRIRA ). The IIRIRA requires local governments to cooperate with the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Agency. Despite the IIRIRA, hundreds of urban, suburban, and rural communities have resisted and outright ignored the law, instead choosing to adopt and enact sanctuary policies.

A sanctuary city is a city that limits its cooperation with the national government effort to enforce immigration law. Essentially, sanctuary cities act as a protective shield, standing in the way of federal efforts to pinpoint and deport people at random.

According to recent reports from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, California has the fourth most counties and second most cities considered to have adopted laws, policies or practices that may impede some immigration enforcement efforts. The state of Oregon has the most, with 31 counties, followed by Washington (18), Pennsylvania (16) and California (15). Massachusetts has the most cities considered to be “sanctuary,” and California follows with three. However, The Los Angeles Times reported that ICE suspended the recently adopted practice of reporting cities that don’t comply with federal detention efforts following error-ridden reports.

The California Values Bill entails the following:

• Prohibit state or local resources from being used to investigate, detain, detect, report or arrest persons for immigration enforcement purposes.

• Ban state and local resources from being used to facilitate the creation of a national registry based on religion.

• Prevent state agencies from collecting or sharing immigration information from individuals unless necessary to perform agency duties.

• Ensure that California schools, hospitals and courthouses remain safe and accessible to all California residents regardless of immigration status.

Why this Legislation and Protection of Sanctuary Cities Is Important to Public Health & Safety

Consider a scenario where there is a serial rapist, but his initial victims were all undocumented and thus unwilling to contact police to report the crime, and this rapist then goes on to harm others – legal citizens.

Would we now find his crime egregious? Would we now want to remove this guy off of the streets so he can no longer harm others?

The logical answer would be yes, but it does not dismiss the fact that all other subsequent rapes could have been prevented if the first victim felt safe enough to come forward. This scenario describes the importance of sanctuary cities and the California Values Bill, in terms of public health and safety. It would help to ensure that those residing in the state of California, regardless of documented status, can come forward to report crimes committed against themselves and others to law enforcement.

Why this Legislation and Protection of Sanctuary Cities Is Important to Victims of Intimate Partner Violence

For the same reasons as described as above. Furthermore, abusers use the threat of reporting undocumented victims or even members of their families who may be undocumented, as a means to (1) ensure that they conceal the abuse and not report them to the police, (2) force them to return to abusive situations. And the end result of this may be continued abuse and even death at the hands of their abusers.

A civilized society should simply not allow members of their communities to be forced to remain in abusive situations.

Why this Legislation and Protection of Sanctuary Cities Is Important to Victims of Human Sex Trafficking

For transnational victims of sex traffickers (including those who were trafficked here against their own will), the threat of deportation and/or criminalization is used as a tool to keep them silent, subservient, and in bondage. Traffickers make every effort to discourage them from contacting law enforcement, who along with other first responders are among the people who are the first to come in contact with victims of trafficking, while they are still in captivity. Having this population live in fear of exposing their undocumented status simply helps to perpetuate human trafficking.

The following testimony and passage was included in the 2009 US Department of Health’s Study of HHS Programs Serving Human Trafficking Victims:

“Fear of law enforcement and fear of retaliation. Next, respondents noted that fear is a significant deterrent to foreign-born victims coming forward and being identified, specifically fear of law enforcement and fear of retaliation from the trafficker. In most cases, it was reported that victims were taught to fear law enforcement, either as a result of experiences with corrupt governments and law enforcement in their countries of origin or as a result of the traffickers telling the victims that if they are caught, law enforcement will arrest them and deport them. The trafficker paints a picture of the victim as the criminal in the eyes of law enforcement. Additionally, the trafficker uses the threat of harm against the victim and/or his or her family as a means of control and a compelling reason for the victim to remain hidden. In some cases, these fears were in fact the ultimate reality for the victim. Service providers gave several examples of clients being placed into deportation hearings after coming forward to law enforcement.”

So, why do we say “victims” of sex trafficking?

Well this has to do with various factors, including the fact that the domestic entry age is 12-14 years. When one is that young, surely they are unable to consent or engage in any decision-making regarding sexual activity. Further, no one is granted their freedom simply because they have had an 18th birthday. For this reason, victims can be held in captivity and exploited for many years, well into adulthood.

And each year involved in trafficking makes it more difficult to get out. These victims are dealing with stunted development, lack of education and job skills training, drug abuse and mental illness related to the complex trauma that they have endured, and threats of violence and death for even trying to escape. There is nothing sex positive about these circumstances, and those who are the most vulnerable are people of color, LGBTQ folks (especially transgender women who engage in survival sex), low-income individuals, and of course immigrants. The “Pretty Woman” fantasy does not apply here.

One has to keep in mind that, due to socio-cultural reasons and the effects of exploitation, victims of all forms of human trafficking do not readily identify as victims.

Traffickers use the following methods to recruit:

Traffickers and/or pimps rely on various methods of recruitment, and they include:

  • Psychological manipulation – making a woman/girl fall in love
  • Debt
  • Drugs and drug addiction

· “Gorilla” Pimping – utilization of force, kidnapping, and physical harm to achieve a victim’s submission

· Working with Those in Positions of Authority – parents, guardian, older siblings, foster parent, or an authoritarian figure who forces a victim into bondage.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000 actually defines severe forms of trafficking in persons as that which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age; or the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery (22 U.S.C. § 7102).

What Next?

Whether you are a resident of California or not, you should contact California legislators and encourage them to support this Bill.

A list of California legislators can be found here .

For more insights and tips, see the guide H ow To Lobby The California State Legislature: A Guide To Participation .


The Hampton Institute

(HI) was founded with the purpose of giving a platform to everyday, working-class people to theorize, comment, analyze and discuss matters that exist outside the confines of their daily lives, yet greatly impact them on a daily basis. The organization was named after former Black Panther, Fred Hampton, and also cites inspiration from Italian Marxist theorist, Antonio Gramsci, as well as educator and philosopher, Paulo Freire. In order to remain consistent with its working-class billing, the HI seeks out, as well as aims to develop, organic intellectuals within the working class, both in the US as well as internationally.

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