The leader of the California Senate recently used his closing remarks in a Senate hearing to downplay how concerning it is if illegal immigrants engage in identity theft, then later doubled down on his defense in an interview on Southern California Public Radio.
An outraged Capitol staffer brought the former point to my attention, while a former Republican assemblyman also wrote about the latter in a recent piece on the Breitbart website. This appalling news has garnered no noticeable outrage or media coverage — despite the implications for those who have been victimized by such crimes.
“Half of my family would be eligible for deportation” under President Donald Trump’s recent executive order, said Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, “if they got a false Social Security card, if they got a false identification, if they got a false driver’s license prior to us passing (a bill allowing illegal immigrants to have driver’s licenses).” De Leon added at the Capitol hearing that “almost everybody has secured some sort of false identification.”
Those were from his closing remarks on Senate Bill 54, which would turn California into a “sanctuary state.” Various cities have been embracing variants of this “sanctuary” approach, even if the specifics vary by jurisdiction. Some cities use different terminology.
On Tuesday, for instance, the Santa Rosa City Council voted to create an “indivisible city” designation, after council members expressed concern that the term “sanctuary” implied a level of protection from deportation that the city simply could not offer. There was no apparent concern by the council that this northern California city would become a laughingstock for making up a new, more politically correct term to supplant an old PC term.
The state legislation “prohibits state and local law enforcement agencies and school police and security departments from using agency or department money, facility, property, equipment or personnel to investigate, interrogate, detain, detect or arrest persons for immigration enforcement purposes,” according to the Senate bill analysis. It also forbids law-enforcement agencies from making their databases available for immigration enforcement.
For practicality’s sake, I agree that it’s unrealistic and counterproductive for police agencies to become de facto immigration enforcers, especially in a state with such a large population of illegal residents. If, say, an illegal immigrant fears deportation for reporting a serious crime, then that immigrant will be less likely to report the crime.
But California leaders’ derangement over the Trump presidency is not leading to reasonable proposals to deal with such problems. I know that “reasonable” can rarely be applied to most of our state’s legislative proposals, but the spate of these immigration-related anti-Trump bills are unhinged even by Sacramento standards. “They are throwing a temper tantrum,” one Capitol insider told me. “They are so apoplectic they can’t think straight on anything.”
It may be entertaining to watch California’s usually unchallenged Democratic leaders have public meltdowns, but the result will be passage of some really bad laws that will victimize real people. Donnelly’s article referred to the public-radio exchange between host Larry Mantle and De Leon:
Said Mantle: “First of all, I just — I want to make sure I understand correctly: You don’t think purchasing a phony Social Security card and number should be a deportable offense?” Responded De Leon: “I can tell you I have family members specifically who came here as undocumented immigrants, and they did the same thing. That’s what you need to do to survive in this economy.”
Mantle said that he knows people “who’ve had their Social Security numbers and their identities stolen as a result of that.” De Leon replied: “We’re not talking about some Russian hack, you know, trolling, you know, people’s … databases and stealing, you know, huge numbers of Social Security numbers, bank account numbers and so forth.” Mantle pointed out how difficult identity theft can be for its victims. “That’s been the reality for, what, the past 50 years,” De Leon added.
Let that sink in for a moment. My immigration views (i.e., make it much easier for people to immigrate here legally) are probably not that popular among American Spectator readers, but we should all agree on the grave problems that result when the authorities look the other way when it comes to those who commit crimes that have real victims.
Sen. Joel Anderson, R-El Cajon, complained that such sanctuary-city efforts could lead to the release of illegal immigrants who have committed far more serious crimes than identity theft. But the De Leon statements are so eye-opening because of the Senate leader’s casual dismissal of a crime that causes victims serious hardship. Sure, the buyers of fake Social Security numbers aren’t the equivalent of Russian hackers, but the people who sell them certainly may be involved in the theft and sale of “huge numbers” of accounts. What a foolish answer, even though De Leon admitted it’s not a good thing.
Increasingly, California’s legal citizens face a growing array of laws, regulations and taxes. In their zeal to poke their finger in the eye of the Republican administration, however, legislators are passing laws that provide wide areas of legal exemptions — designed mainly to benefit people who are here illegally. It’s a perverse legislative approach in a state that can never manage to deregulate anything (except, perhaps, abortion clinics).
In another recent example, Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, introduced a bill that prohibits state agencies and public universities from disclosing any private information of their applicants. I’m a big fan of privacy bills, but the Los Angeles Times reports that Lara “has said his legislation aims to protect the data of immigrants who are in the country illegally, as President Trump’s administration has promised to identify and target a wider group of people for deportation.” One would never see such concern in Sacramento for, say, the privacy of mere citizens.
There are plenty of rational opportunities to push back against overreaches of the Trump administration. At a meeting with sheriffs earlier this week, the president “joked about destroying the career of an unnamed Texas state senator who supported curtailing a controversial police practice for seizing people’s property,” according to a Washington Post report. Asset forfeiture is the process by which revenue-hungry police agencies seize property suspected of being used in drug crime, without due process for the owners.
On a bipartisan basis, California last year reformed its asset-forfeiture laws in a way that upholds the intent of the Fifth Amendment. Police now mostly need a conviction before grabbing people’s cars, homes, and cash. The president could use a lesson here on the value of property rights and the importance of due process. Instead of offering one, California legislators are busy teaching the rest of the country about how crazy they are. It’s one thing to calmly oppose an ill-conceived executive order, but it’s quite another to shrug off the victims of crimes.