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State Sen. Kevin De Leon talks about border issues at the U.S.-Mexico border fence in San Ysidro. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

State Sen. Kevin de Leon spent Wednesday traveling around San Diego, including stops near the U.S.-Mexico border and in Barrio Logan – where he grew up.

The visit came a week after the San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted to support a Trump administration lawsuit challenging three California laws intended to protect unauthorized immigrants. The most widely discussed of the laws is The California Values Act or SB 54, which De Leon wrote.

It also came a day after ICE announced the completion of an operation in San Diego that resulted in the arrest of 44 unauthorized immigrants. In its press release about the operation, ICE said it faced “significant obstacles in dealing with so-called ‘sanctuary city’ policies” for hindering “cooperation with local law enforcement.”

De Leon, who is challenging Sen. Dianne Feinstein for a U.S. Senate seat, started the morning right on the border, along a portion of the existing border wall. There, he spoke with several locals about their biggest border concerns.

Cross-border pollution, like air quality in San Ysidro and Tijuana River sewage – were top of mind for locals but are relatively low on the federal government’s border agenda.

De Leon recalled the same cross-border water pollution happening when he was a kid, and said the fact that the problem persists shows a lack of innovation and interest by policymakers in solving the issue.

De Leon also spoke with Alejandra Ramos, a DACA recipient, about policies in Escondido, where she lives. The city voted in early April to submit a legal memo supporting the Trump administration’s case against SB 54 and other laws.

“The genesis of SB 54 was to make sure there was a firewall between local police and ICE,” De Leon said. “The city of Escondido was a perfect example of why SB 54 was needed.”

The city, he said, had an “overzealous” mayor and police department “who are tripping over themselves to help immigration officers.”

 Speaking of which: Escondido Mayor Sam Abed was among a group of Republicans who recently criticized SB 54 in an unsual way – by suggesting that recent raids by federal officials were caused by the law.

“The concern among the Hispanic community is growing because now ICE is separating families. They went to a transit station, right. They did a sweep without our police involvement, without our police knowledge. What did they do? They arrested and deported 115 of them, of illegal immigrants. Not all of them are criminals. That’s what SB 54 is doing to our immigrant community, guys,” he said.

That’s an especially strange take from an Escondido official, given that the city has become nationally known for its anti-immigrant policies. Here, Abed is suggesting that he doesn’t support the arrest of non-criminal immigrants. VOSD’s Scott Lewis examined some of these statements and pointed out the ways in which they’re not true.

Maya Srikrishnan

Prop. 57 Opponents Hope to Undo Its Reforms

Sen. Pat Bates, whose district includes part of northern San Diego County, made a second unsuccessful attempt this week to expand California’s legal definition of violent crime.

Her SB 976, like last year’s SB 75, was a response to Prop. 57, the 2016 ballot measure that, among other things, made certain nonviolent offenders eligible for early parole consideration.

SB 976 failed to make it out of the Senate’s public safety committee on a party-line vote.

Though Bates was restrained in the hearing, she later, via press release, blamed the committee’s Democrats for “not [stopping] the potential early release of serious felons and sex offenders.”

Prop. 57 passed easily, but has faced a tough roll-out. Its proponents, including Gov. Jerry Brown, assured voters that violent criminals wouldn’t be eligible for early release. But critics continue to seize on the fact that California’s statutory definition of “violent” isn’t what the average person might assume. Crimes like rape of an unconscious person, lewd acts with a child, arson and vehicular manslaughter are technically considered nonviolent under state law. And while the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said it would exclude anyone convicted of a sexual offense from early parole, in February, a Sacramento County judge ruled that only sexual offenses defined as violent under state law could be excluded.

Corrections officials are appealing the ruling.

In the meantime, it’s provided fodder for critics like the California Public Safety Partnership, a victims rights group that’s collecting signatures for a ballot measure that would undo most of Prop. 57’s reforms. Earlier this month, the Escondido City Council passed a resolution endorsing that ballot measure. And in February, shortly after the ruling, the Union-Tribune editorial board slammed Prop. 57 as a “debacle” (drawing a harsh rebuke from Brown, who accused the board of “shameless fear mongering”).

John Bauters, government relations director with Californians for Safety and Justice, a nonprofit advocating for criminal justice reform, said there’s no reason to believe the state parole board will be forced to release anyone who poses a threat to public safety.

“There’s a system that works,” he said. “That’s the part that nobody is talking about.”

Bauters noted that only about 20 percent of folks eligible for early parole consideration under Prop. 57 have actually been granted parole.

Kelly Davis

John Cox Makes His Case

Republican John Cox, a businessman from Rancho Santa Fe who’s running for governor, told the New York Times this week that he thinks people should stop using “harsh language” – then immediately made a pretty harsh comparison.

Cox bizarrely criticizes Gov. Jerry Brown for approving sanctuary policies by comparing him to former Alabama Gov. George Wallace, who physically blocked black students from entering a school.

He also said he thinks the policies limiting state law enforcement officers’ interactions with federal immigration officials are the biggest issue in the race, and said he didn’t vote for President Donald Trump but believes he’s “done some great things.”

In a separate interview with the Union-Tribune’s editorial board, Cox said that people who use marijuana should receive mandatory medical treatment.

The latest polls show Cox is in contention to make it into the November runoff.

Sara Libby

Golden State News

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