California became the nation’s first sanctuary state in January, when Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation (SB 54) that limits cooperation by local law enforcement with federal immigration authorities. In March, the US Justice Department announced that it was suing California over three immigration-related laws—including SB 54. Since then, six counties—including San Diego and Orange—and at least 13 cities have voiced opposition to the sanctuary laws, either by passing resolutions or by joining the Justice Department’s lawsuit against California.
A solid majority of Californians (61%) support the state taking action to protect undocumented immigrants. But there is a stark partisan divide: the March PPIC Statewide Survey found eight in ten Democrats in favor of and eight in ten Republicans opposed to the state taking action. It is notable that there is majority support across the state’s regions. This includes 55% support among residents in Orange and San Diego Counties, home to a majority of the cities opposing the sanctuary laws. About half of residents in the Central Valley and the Inland Empire favor the state taking action. And support is even higher in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area, where it hovers around two-thirds. There are some differences between coastal (64%) and inland (52%) residents.
Across demographic groups, there is considerable support for state action on this issue—in fact majority support drops below 50% only among whites (47%). Support is highest among Latinos (76%), immigrant residents (73%), those with a high school degree or less (71%), Californians age 18 to 34 (67%), and those living in households making less than $40,000 (67%).
While the courts will ultimately decide the fate of the federal lawsuit, two things are clear: 1) California will continue to chart its own course on issues its leaders care about, and 2) immigration continues to be a topic that divides partisans but unites many other Californians across the state. Stay tuned to PPIC as the Statewide Survey will continue to monitor the opinions of Californians on this important policy issue.