The Latest on California’s Sanctuary State Law---Encouraging News

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By Joe Guzzardi

Joe is a CAPS Senior Writing Fellow whose commentaries about California's social issues have run in newspapers throughout California and the country for nearly 30 years. Contact Joe at, or find him on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.

The writer's views are his own.

November 15, 2017
California Referendum Process Dates Back to 1911
California Referendum Process Dates Back to 1911.
For the millions of Californians opposed to the state’s recently passed sanctuary state legislation, SB 54, hope remains. The California Assembly wrote and passed SB 54, and Governor Jerry Brown signed it into law.

But SB 54 never appeared on a ballot, and voters had no say even though the safety of their communities is at risk when convicted criminal aliens are released. SB 54 strictly limits local jurisdictions cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents who may have requested that an alien be held in anticipation of his possible removal.

Statewide and national polling shows that across party lines, ethnicities, and age groups likely voters oppose sanctuary policies. But SB 54 isn’t yet totally settled. In late October, Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced that a referendum on SB 54 has been approved to gather signatures. Critics have until Jan. 3, 2018 to collect a minimum 365,880 signatures from registered voters. If successful, the referendum will appear on the November 2018 ballot where voters could invalidate SB 54.

The task of getting 365,880 signatures from among California’s 18.2 million registered voters, a total greater than the entire population of 46 states, should be a breeze. But the Secretary of State’s office has strict rules on signature gathering that, while not difficult to follow, must be carried out precisely. Failure to comply can bring criminal charges.

Among the guidelines: mandatory disclosure if the gatherer is paid or a volunteer, his name and address, a testament that he’s legally qualified to vote, that he’s witnessed each signature and that they’re genuine. Problems can arise among the signatories also. The most common are duplicate signatures, signatures from non-registered voters or out of state residents.

Two notable examples of California referendums, one successful and one failure: in 2003, an effort to recall California Governor Gray Davis received the necessary signatures and went to the ballot. Voters elected Arnold Schwarzenegger to replace Davis as governor. But in 2012, an effort to repeal California’s DREAM Act that allows illegal immigrants to receive state-funded financial aid failed.

Since Californians adopted the referendum process in 1911 and through November 2014, 364 initiatives have qualified for the statewide California ballot. Voters have approved 123, or 34 percent.

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