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California's 'anti-Arizona' bill clears state Senate

Photo by Chad Miller/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A California measure dubbed by some as the "anti-Arizona" bill cleared the state Senate this afternoon by a vote of 21-13. Better known as TRUST Act, the bill proposes restricting who it is that law enforcement agencies can hold for deportation at the request of immigration officials.

The bill now heads to the Assembly - which passed a previous version last year - for a concurrence vote on its way to the governor's office.

A heavily amended version of the original approved last year, the measure proposes that local and state law enforcement officers in California only be allowed to hold immigrants with violent or otherwise serious criminal convictions for immigration officers.

The TRUST Act has somewhat of a roundabout history. About this time last year, the original bill (the acronym stands for “Transparency and Responsibility Using State Tools”) was moving through the statehouse. That version aimed to make optional California counties' and cities’ participation in the Secure Communities immigration enforcement program, which allows the fingerprints of people booked by local cops to be shared with immigration officials.

The Secure Communities program has met with resistance in several states and jurisdictions since it was first rolled out in 2008 by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. If the fingerprints of an individual booked locally match federal immigration records, local authorities must hold the person for ICE, which then pursues deportation. Critics of the program, including some in law enforcement, have complained that it casts too wide a net, landing many non-criminals in deportation and alienating immigrant communities in the process.

The original TRUST Act was rendered moot last August, after ICE rescinded the state agreements signed as Secure Communities was first being implemented. While the contracts suggested that participation was optional, the ICE decision essentially made the program mandatory, leaving states no choice but to participate.

As a counter, the original bill's author Tom Ammiano, a Bay Area Democrat in the Assembly, tweaked it to reflect the new reality and dubbed it "TRUST Act 2.0" The idea now is for local agencies to work with ICE as mandated, but only to a point. From the bill text:

An individual shall not be detained by a law enforcement official on the basis of an immigration hold after that individual becomes eligible for release from criminal custody, unless, at the time the individual becomes eligible for release from criminal custody, both of the following conditions are satisfied:

(a) The individual has been convicted of a serious or violent felony, according to a criminal background check or documentation provided to the law enforcement official by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

(b) The continued detention of the individual on the basis of the immigration hold would not violate any federal, state, or local law, or any local policy.

Local jurisdictions would also need to have plans in place to prevent the detention of U.S. citizens, racial profiling, and other situations that might prevent immigrant victims and witnesses from stepping forward to report crimes.

The concurrence vote is required because the amended bill hasn't yet been voted on in the Assembly. If successful it will then head to Gov. Jerry Brown's office for approval. The governor has yet to indicate whether he'll sign the bill, according to Ammiano's staff.

There have been similar responses elsewhere to ICE’s decision to move ahead with Secure Communities, including in Washington, D.C., where local voted recently to place limits on local authorities holding immigrants for the agency. A similar measure was also approved recently in Santa Clara County, California.