Tuesday in Sacramento the state Assembly Judiciary Committee considers AB26, legislation intended to crack down on illegal immigration and modeled after Arizona's controversial immigration law.
On the steps of the State Capitol Monday several hundred people gathered in support of AB26. Speakers at the rally included Republican Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, the man behind AB26. He founded the Minuteman movement at the California-Mexico border and was inspired by Arizona's get tough approach to illegal immigration.
Public safety was the main theme of Monday's rally. Donnelly's bill would prevent cities from enacting so-called sanctuary bills and force local officials to cooperate with federal immigration agents. It would also punish employers who knowingly hire undocumented immigrants.
"The Arizona law was born right here in California because of the tragedy of three citizens who were slaughtered in broad daylight by an illegal alien gang-member who was released by the city of San Francisco," said Donnelly.
"It's about whether or not we're going to cede American territory to those who are in the country illegally and to the drug cartels who are basically foreign-terrosist thugs," said Donnelly. "Or are we going to stand up for the rule of law and remain a free state in CA."
Janice Willhelmson travelled to the rally from Crestline in San Bernardino County. For her, immigration is a budget issue.
"We don't have the money to support the illegals anymore," Wilhelmson said. "They're coming in and taking everything -- resources from our kids, and just basically ruining our lives."
On the sidewalk outside of the State Capitol, a much smaller rally was held against AB26. The demonstration was sponsored by labor union SEIU who says that the law would lead to racial profiling and is unfair to immigrants.
"We believe that this type of law doesn't work," said Lino Pedrez. "We believe in comprehensive immigration reform."
AB26 will be heard today in the Assembly Judiciary Committee, which is chaired by Los Angeles Democrat Mike Feuer.
"I think it’s a very divisive, impractical, unconstitutinal piece of legislation that would harm businesses and make California less safe," said Feuer.
According to Feuer, AB26 would make the state less safe because the law would divert local law enforcement resources away from preventing crime and toward enforcing federal immigration laws. He adds that even AB26 were enacted, it would immediately end up in court -- just as Arizona's law is now.
"We should be riveted on balancing our budget, we should be creating jobs, we should be making sure skyrocketing health care costs don't continue to escalate," said Feuer. "Those are the kinds of things we should be focusing on today."
AB26 is supported by every Republican on the Assembly Judiciary Committee -- but they're far outnumbered by Democrats. That, plus certain opposition from Governor Jerry Brown, make it highly unlikely this bill will ever be enacted.
But Republican political analyst Allen Hoffenblum says legislation like this still damages the party's prospects with Latinos.
"They still are not voting Republican," said Hoffenblum. "Again the reason is because they believe the Repulican party is anti-Latino. Bill such as this and rallies such as this reinforce that image."
New U.S. Census figures show Latinos are now 37 percent of the state's population. A record 1.7 million Latinos cast their ballots in California in last November's election -- where Democrats won every statewide office.
The Republican party faces a steep uphill climb reversing that trend -- especially if illegal immigration remains near the top of their political agenda.