California Debates Expanding its Sanctuary Law through the HOME Act
FAIR Take | April 2023
While there is no shortage of problems plaguing California – homelessness, crime, the high cost of living, to name a few – the California legislature is once again debating legislation that would prioritize criminal aliens above Americans. One bill in particular, the Harmonizing Our Measures for Equality (HOME Act), Assembly Bill (AB) 1306, expands California’s reckless sanctuary law to further restrict law enforcement officials from turning criminal aliens over to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) when their sentences end. This legislation, while narrower than its predecessor, the VISION Act, still allows criminal aliens to be released back into their communities to re-offend and prey on vulnerable individuals.
The HOME Act bars state prisons from providing release information, detaining, or transferring to ICE criminal aliens who are being released as a result of recently enacted “criminal justice reform laws.” These laws include:
- Criminal aliens eligible for early parole because they were 25 years old or younger when they committed the crime and were sentenced to life or long determinate sentences;
- Criminal aliens eligible for resentencing because they were originally convicted under the felony murder rule but they didn’t kill anyone; and
- Criminal aliens eligible for release because racial bias impacted their case;
- Criminal aliens eligible for compassionate release or parole because they were older or suffering from a terminal illness or permanent incapacity;
- Criminal aliens whose crimes were a direct result of them being victims of sexual assault or domestic violence.
The most recent data shows roughly 24,180 criminal aliens are currently in state prisons and facilities. If the HOME Act passes, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation will be prohibited from cooperating with federal immigration officials, even concerning criminal aliens convicted of the most heinous crimes. For example, if a criminal alien commits murder when he/she is 25 years old and is subsequently sentenced to life in prison and becomes eligible for early parole based on California’s newly enacted criminal justice reform laws, then CDCR would be unable to transfer that alien to ICE and would have to release him/her into the community.
The HOME Act is Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo’s (D-Los Angeles) third attempt to stop the removal of dangerous criminal aliens. Last session, police and sheriffs’ groups opposed her legislation entitled the VISION Act, a broader version of The HOME Act, which prohibited the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) facilities and local jails from transferring criminal aliens to ICE. Due to the opposition by law enforcement, the proposal failed by three votes in the Senate. Four Democrats joined all the Republicans to oppose the VISION Act and nine more Democrats abstained.
To date, law enforcement officials and the Democrats that opposed the VISION Act have not taken a stance on the HOME Act. If the HOME Act passes now, proponents will likely follow it up with an additional bill to eliminate all transfers to ICE across the state. The result will be to force ICE to track down the criminal aliens in the communities they reside, posing a public safety risk to everyone there.
The threat posed by the HOME Act is real. The legislation has already passed two committees in the California Assembly this session – Public Safety on April 12, and Judiciary on April 18. The bill has further been referred to the Appropriations Committee to consider the costs. These costs would include additional manpower needed to supervise roughly 2,500 more parolees who would have otherwise been deported. According to FAIR’s recent cost study, in 2023, the State of California is already spending $4.3 billion on the administration of justice costs (which includes the police, legal, and corrections costs).
Ironically, the California Assembly is considering this bill at a time when California’s crime rate has steadily increased. In 2021, the violent crime rate jumped six percent. Likewise, aggravated assaults soared nearly nine percent higher while homicides and rapes each increased nearly eight percent.
Moreover, it is incredulous that this legislation is being pushed at a time when federal immigration officials are already strapped for manpower. The US Border Patrol San Diego Sector (SDC) has encountered nearly 110,000 illegal aliens between ports of entry from October 1, 2022 to April 4, 2023, which is a 30 percent increase over the same period last year. Additionally, agents have seized 817 pounds of fentanyl during the same timeframe. In Fiscal Year 2022, SDC seized 1052 pounds of fentanyl which accounted for nearly 60 percent of all the fentanyl seized by border patrol. With the surge at the southern border, immigration officials have been reassigned to help with the processing. With only 20,000 employees, only half of whom are dedicated to the apprehension and removal of illegal aliens, this puts a tremendous burden on ICE officials. Further, this strain will likely be exacerbated with the lifting of Title 42 regulations on May 11.