Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

California's 'anti-Arizona' immigration bill on way to governor's desk

Art by José Luís Agapito/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A California bill that would limit the extent to which local and state cops cooperate with federal immigration officials is on its way to Gov. Jerry Brown's desk after clearing a final Assembly vote.

Approved in June by the state Senate, the measure nicknamed the “anti-Arizona” bill cleared an Assembly concurrence vote this morning 48-26. Better known as the TRUST Act (it stands for “Transparency and Responsibility Using State Tools”), it has nothing to do with Arizona, but here is what the bill proposes for California:

This bill would prohibit a law enforcement official, as defined, from detaining an individual on the basis of a United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement hold after that individual becomes eligible for release from criminal custody, unless the local agency adopts a plan that meets certain requirements prior to or after compliance with the immigration hold, and, at the time that the individual becomes eligible for release from criminal custody, certain conditions are met.

The basic premise of the TRUST Act is that there would be restrictions restrictions on the cooperation between local/state law enforcement agencies and federal immigration agents. The bill's intended goal is to shrink the net cast by the federal Secure Communities program, which allows the fingerprints of people booked by local and state cops to be shared with immigration agents. Under the TRUST Act, local and state officers in California would only be able to hold immigrants convicted of felonies and other serious crimes for immigration agents, as opposed to how it works now under Secure Communities, where anyone can be held.

The bill does not “override” Secure Communities, however, as some have suggested, or give undocumented immigrants any additional protection from the law. But there are conditions that would have to be met for an individual who lacks serious offenses to be held.

From the bill:

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.

Much of the criticism of Secure Communities has been around non-criminal arrests, with critics saying it lands too many non-criminals or minor offenders in deportation, leading to what has become record numbers of people deported each year. And some state, local and law enforcement officials in California and other states have complained that the program makes immigrants fearful of police and alienates immigrant communities, impeding policing.

Not all, however. Los Angeles County's Sheriff Lee Baca, who has been supportive of Secure Communities, has opposed the bill and reportedly complained directly in a letter recently to the TRUST Act's sponsor, Assembly member Tom Ammiano, a Democrat from the Bay Area.

The current TRUST Act is a heavily amended version of a bill that passed in the Assembly last year; it was revised to compensate for federal officials' later rescinding the state contracts for Secure Communities last August, essentially forcing states’ cooperation.

The amended bill cleared the state Senate 21-13 in June. It now moves on for approval from the governor, who has yet to indicate if he might sign it. The signing deadline is Sept. 30.