SANTA MARIA, Calif. - The State Sheriff's Association is opposing SB 54 which critics say will make California a sanctuary state.
Senate Bill 54 would prevent local law enforcement from notifying federal immigration authorities about illegal or undocumented immigrants that are arrested and taken into custody except those accused of violent felonies.
Two years ago 64 year old Marilyn Pharis was brutally attacked and raped as she slept inside her Santa Maria home. She died later from her injuries in the hospital.
Her case sparked intense public debate in the community and beyond after Santa Maria Police revealed one of the two men accused of the violent crime, Victor Aureliano Martinez, is an illegal immigrant who had been in and out of custody several times but never deported.
SB 54, in its current form, would allow law enforcement to notify ICE in similar cases of violent crime.
When the bill was introduced by Democrat Senator Kevin De Leon earlier this year it was opposed by Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown who is also current chairman of the California State Sheriff's Association.
Despite amendments to gain law enforcement support, the CSSA continues to oppose SB 54 saying it doesn't include other, non-violent crimes.
"The bill still has a number of crimes that are excluded that we would not be able to communicate with federal law enforcement authorities about", said Cory Salzillo with the CSSA, "that still remains problematic for the Sheriff's."
"We have stated all along that we don't participate in frontline immigration enforcement and that we don't honor detainer requests that would violate a person's fourth amendment rights", Salzillo said, "we're willing to put that into the statute. But what we also needed in the statute was not limiting our ability to communicate based on those (other) crimes."
The California Police Chiefs Association has withdrawn its opposition to SB 54 and now says its "neutral" after seeing the bill's amendments.
SB 54 is expected to go to a vote of the full State Assembly this week and if its approved it will go to Governor Brown for a final decision.