Earlier this month, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB 54, a historic state law that thumbs his state's nose at federal authority. Beginning in January, the law states, California officially becomes a so-called sanctuary state.

The term "sanctuary" is, of course, not univocal. It was once used to describe a sensible law enforcement strategy, by which otherwise law-abiding illegal immigrants who report crimes or cooperate with the police are not asked about their immigration status, lest they hesitate to help authorities in the future.

Unfortunately, that is not what "sanctuary" means in this case. California is instead following the lead of many of its municipalities in protecting not only accused but also convicted criminals in state and county lockups from the reach of federal immigration authorities. Instead of helping ICE to repatriate felons after their release, sanctuary jurisdictions deliberately protect them from ICE, and release them so they can roam the streets and create more victims.

Lawmakers who support sanctuary jurisdictions are endangering the lives and property of American citizens. They are flouting the one immigration enforcement policy that polls show 95 percent of Americans agree on: that illegal immigrants who commit serious crimes should be deported.

The Left has worked so hard to mischaracterize "sanctuary cities," and to demonize opposition to them as somehow racist, that it is worth explaining at length the dishonesty behind their arguments.

Objections to sanctuary cities are not grounded in the belief that all immigrants are criminals, or even that immigrants are more likely to commit crimes than other groups. The real issue is that any crime committed by an illegal immigrant is a crime that reasonably could have been prevented through immigration enforcement. And every victim of a violent or property crime by an illegal immigrant repeat criminal is a victim who did not have to be victimized, and who would not have been victimized if not for a prior failure of immigration enforcement.

Think about it for a moment. When a criminal enters the U.S. illegally, we have a shortcut to protect the public. The U.S. already has more than its fair share of citizens who are career criminals, who can't just be sent outside the country in the name of public safety, nor even arrested without probable cause.

But anyone who is in the U.S. illegally is already subject to deportation, crime or no crime. And it's much easier to deport illegal immigrants who have actually been arrested and convicted of crimes. And it's not just the violent crimes, either. America has enough identity thieves, drunk drivers, burglars, drug traffickers, forgers, and the like that we don't need to import them.

The deportation of a criminal is a win for everyone living in the U.S., especially for the immigrant populations that such criminals disproportionately prey upon. Every such deportation demonstrates that America's understandable blind spot for immigration violators doesn't exist for those who come here to break our criminal laws.

One result of California's new law will be that Californians are needlessly victimized by illegal immigrants who should have been deported long before they committed their crimes. But there will be another annoying and potentially dangerous effect as well.

Because the state is attempting to nullify federal immigration law by withholding cooperation, we expect to see federal authorities increase their presence and conduct more aggressive deportation operations in open environments where people can get hurt. If California and its municipalities won't cooperate with ICE and hand over criminals inside the jailhouse, then ICE will undertake more risky enforcement, waiting for criminals outside state institutions such as jails, courthouses, and perhaps even schools and hospitals.

Surely, this is not what Gov. Brown intended, but he's going to get it.