Trust Act headed to Gov. Brown's desk

Trust Act headed to Gov. Brown's desk

Illegal immigrant signAn amended version of the Trust Act, a law that would dramatically alter the relationship between local and federal immigration enforcement in California, passed the State Assembly Tuesday 48-25. Gov. Jerry Brown will now consider signing the bill into law, as it also passed the State Senate 25-11 on Monday.

The bill’s sponsor, Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, said the legislation was necessary to “bring back trust between our communities and the local law enforcement agencies supposed to protect them.”

So what is in the new version of the Trust Act, also known as Assembly Bill 4?

Currently, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents send requests to local agencies to put extended holds on illegal immigrants detained for committing crimes. These holds allow ICE more time to catch up on a backlog of illegal immigrants who committed crimes, increasing the efficacy of federal enforcement, while passing costs to local law enforcement agencies.

Using a data-sharing program named Secure Communities, ICE has been able to conduct record numbers of criminal deportations. In California alone, the program has been responsible for at least 50,000 deportations. Some estimates place the number closer to 80,000.

The Trust Act would limit local cooperation with ICE, thus limiting the number of deportations.

From the text of the bill:

“This bill would prohibit a law enforcement official… from detaining an individual on the basis of a United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement hold after that individual becomes eligible for release from custody, unless, at the time that the individual becomes eligible for release from custody, certain conditions are met, including, among other things, that the individual has been convicted of specified crimes.”

Last year Brown vetoed similar legislation, characterizing the bill as “fatally flawed.” Brown said that because the list of specified crimes was too narrow, serious, or violent, criminals may be released.

At the time, Gov. Brown said he hoped to sign amended legislation that expanded the list of potential crimes.

Amendments

AB4, with amendments, would allow local law enforcement to comply with federal agents “only if” the individual being held committed serious or violent crimes, including assault, sexual abuse, kidnapping, elder abuse or torture and mayhem.

Immigrants who commit felonies punishable by imprisonment would also remain eligible for compliance with federal holds.

However, the bill would not explicitly require local law enforcement to comply, instead granting discretion to local officers. Opponents worry that this language would allow cash-starved local agencies to release more violent criminals for the sake of cost-cutting.

Assemblymember Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, one of the State Assembly’s most vocal opponents of the Trust Act, said earlier this year that the legislation undermines the rule of law by freeing criminals.

Donnelly described an earlier version of the bill as “an insult to every single person in this state who has been a victim at the hands of someone who is in the country illegally.”

Proponents argue that the law would actually improve public safety by making illegal immigrants less fearful of law enforcement and thus more likely to report crimes.

Last week, in an op-ed for the Sacramento Bee, former California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso praised the legislation, saying the Trust Act “represents a reasonable middle ground and should be approved without delay.”

Yet Reynoso lamented, “Unfortunately, the Act now allows many immigration holds before someone has been convicted.”

Brown has yet to declare his support or opposition to the new legislation.

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