The truth about Senate Bill 54 is worse than anyone thought

Published in the OC Register May 3rd

By Diane Dixon

Early last month, I joined an Assembly delegation to the US-Mexico border at San Ysidro to discuss human trafficking and the fentanyl epidemic with Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officials.

During my meetings with border patrol staff, I was confronted with the stark reality of the challenges faced by these men and women tasked with protecting our nation’s security.

These agents deal with thousands of migrants a day coming through the US-Mexico border. They are lacking adequate resources to process these individuals fully and verify their identity beyond what is presented, with many of them disappearing into California and beyond. In many cases, our agencies have no idea who these individuals truly are and whether or not they are involved in human, drug, or weapons trafficking, as many countries fail to report.

In addition to the 100,000 proper crossings each day, the San Diego Sector, which monitors 60 miles of the border, has 1,200 apprehensions every day. These apprehensions are exclusively people crossing illegally and getting caught. Our Sector is tied with Tucson as the busiest in the nation. On top of the 100,000 processed and the 1,200 apprehended, the number of border agents has dropped from 2,400 to 1,900, leaving CBP severely understaffed.

During our meetings, we were informed that foreign nationals from 115 countries are crossing into the United States, with Brazil, Colombia and China topping the list; Mexican nationals rank around sixth.

Many of these migrants are instructed by smugglers to discard their passports so that they can claim asylum as a stateless person. Without identification, their background history, including any criminal history, is unknown to immigration. The migrants know that if they say asylum, they are entitled to the court process unless CBP can track down a criminal record. CBP has apprehended migrants who have been part of a murder in other countries, but if the country in question has an inadequate reporting system, CBP may have trouble finding it.

What has led to such an influx of migrants coming to California specifically and overwhelming our law enforcement compared to other border states? The answer lies in Senate Bill 54, which has turned California into a magnet for illegal migration. SB 54, The California Values Act, more commonly known as the Sanctuary State Law, was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2017. It prevents state and local law enforcement from using their resources to assist federal immigration enforcement agencies, namely Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). We are now facing the consequences of this shortsighted law.

Since becoming law, SB 54 has led to countless illegal migrant criminals becoming repeat offenders in our legal system. State law no longer allows our local law enforcement to cooperate with ICE, whose responsibility is to detain and deport criminals that are in our country illegally.

We need to be crystal clear: border security and immigration is a public safety issue. Fentanyl, drugs, human trafficking, weapons trafficking, organized crime rings, retail theft – it all originates here at the border. We cannot separate the two and pretend they are not interconnected. We can no longer turn a blind eye to the issues that our relaxed immigration policies are causing. Public safety begins at the border.

We have seasonal workers who legally come and go across our border from Mexico every day, with the proper documentation, who are working within the legal boundaries of our immigration system. There are also people who have waited patiently in their home countries for their visas, green cards and citizenship so they can legally enter the United States. Allowing unchecked immigration across our border is not only a danger to public safety but a betrayal to the legally documented immigrants who have followed the law to come to our country and become American citizens. Enforcing our border and cooperating with ICE isn’t anti-immigrant. It’s anti-crime.

I am calling on all of my colleagues in the State Assembly to join me in finding a solution to this crisis. Reversing SB 54 will allow our state and local law enforcement agencies to coordinate with ICE in order to ensure that violent, illegal criminals who have committed serious felony crimes including rape, sex trafficking and murder, are promptly removed from our communities and turned over to federal authorities to be repatriated.

We don’t have the luxury of continuing to ignore this crisis that is directly harming the constituents we are elected to represent. We must work together to find a solution that can ensure the safety and security of our communities. The status quo is unacceptable to all Californians.

Diane Dixon represents the 72nd Assembly District.

Paid for by Dixon for Assembly 2024 ID# 1456771