Governor Brown signed a bill on Saturday (10/5/2013) limiting the state’s cooperation with federal immigration authorities. Up until now, all persons arrested in California who were not U.S. citizens would be automatically detained for up to an additional 48 hours from their scheduled release as an automatic “immigration hold” to allow federal authorities time to decide whether or not to initiate deportation proceedings. As a result, many persons locked up for relatively minor offenses such as DUI or simple drug possession charges found themselves being transferred to federal detention facilities after their “release” by state authorities. Under the new legislation just enacted, that will no longer happen. California jailers will only contact immigration authorities when the individual is convicted of a serious offense.
After Brown signed the legislation into law, he said:
While Washington waffles on immigration, California’s forging ahead . I’m not waiting.
The new California law, known as the Trust Act, limits the state’s cooperation with Secure Communities, a federal program that allows the Department of Homeland Security to access fingerprints taken by local police, to screen detained individuals for immigration status and to request that law enforcement agencies hold them if they’re found to be undocumented. Democratic Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, the top sponsor of the Trust Act, said before Brown’s signature that he hopes state actions like California’s will put more pressure on Congress, rather than drawing attention to the legislative fights there.
It makes it all the more important that California be on the lead on this. If we get the governor’s signature, it will be really a benchmark. It will be one of the first states that has gone on record about this program. … And hopefully, it will signal to D.C. that they need to start moving.
Governor Brown vetoed a similar proposal last year, calling that bill “fatally flawed.” The earlier version of the Trust Act prevented California authorities from detaining prisoners even when they were charged or convicted of serious offenses, including child abuse, drug trafficking or gang activities. The version just signed into law, by contrast, sets forth an extensive list of offenses classified as “serious” enough to warrant detention and possible deportation.
Supporters of the Trust Act say immigrant communities tend to be fearful of police and less likely to report crime, in case in doing so they reveal their undocumented status and get into trouble. Detractors say California is simply encouraging illegal immigration.