ICE to California: 'No choice' but to arrest illegal immigrants despite sanctuary state legislation

The head of the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said Friday that his agency had “no choice” but to arrest illegal immigrants in California’s neighborhoods and worksites despite newly signed sanctuary city legislation in the state.

Those arrested would also likely be placed in out-of-state detention centers, ICE Acting Director Thomas Homan said in a statement.

Homan’s comments came a day after California Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, signed state Senate bill SB54, or sanctuary state legislation.

FILE - In this July 17, 2017 file photo Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at a Capitol news conference in Sacramento, Calif. Brown signed "sanctuary state" legislation Thursday, Oct. 5 that extends protections for immigrants living in the United States illegally — a move that gives the nation's most populous state another tool to fight President Donald Trump.  (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

California Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, signed the state's sanctuary legislation into law on Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017.  (AP)

The new state law, which takes effect Jan. 1, will ban police from asking people about their immigration status or participating in federal immigration enforcement activities. Jail officials would be allowed to transfer inmates to federal immigration authorities only if they have been convicted of certain crimes.

Homan cautioned the bill helped protect illegal immigrants from deportation and made the state a “magnet."


"Ultimately, SB54 helps shield removable aliens from immigration enforcement and creates another magnet for more illegal immigration, all at the expense of the safety and security of the very people it purports to protect," Homan warned.

However, Brown noted the law does not bar ICE from operating in the state. His office declined to comment further on the ICE statement Friday.

"They are free to use their own considerable resources to enforce federal immigration law in California," Brown wrote.

In this Jan. 25, 2017 file photo protesters hold signs as they listen to speakers at a rally outside of City Hall in San Francisco, Calif. California Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation, SB54, the statuary state bill, that extends protections statewide for immigrants living the United State illegally, Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu,file)

California's sanctuary state legislation, which takes effect Jan. 1, would ban police from asking people about their immigration status or participating in federal immigration enforcement activities.  (Associated Press)

Brown said the law does prevent the “commandeering of local officials” to do immigration work.

“These are uncertain times for undocumented Californians and their families, and this bill strikes a balance that will protect public safety while bringing a measure of comfort to those families who are now living in fear every day,” Brown said. 


Democratic Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, who carried the bill, said Homan's statement "exemplifies the fearmongering and lies that guide this Administration."

"The Trump Administration is once again making heavy-handed threats against California because we won't help them tear apart families and our economy in the process," de Leon said in a statement.

Democratic lawmakers in California have worked to create barriers to Trump’s campaign pledge to bolster deportation efforts.  

Trump highlighted sanctuary cities during his presidential campaign after the killing of Kate Steinle, a San Francisco woman who was fatally shot at a pier in 2015 by a Mexican national who had been deported five times. In June, the House passed Kate’s Law, which would increase the penalties for deported aliens who try to return to the U.S.

Trump has threatened to withhold federal funding to sanctuary cities, several of which have filed lawsuits to prevent that from happening.

California is home to an estimated 2.3 million immigrants without legal authorization. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.