California Governor Jerry Brown (D) has less than two weeks to sign Assembly Bill 1081 into law or veto it. The controversial bill also known as the TRUST Act, would limit local law enforcement’s cooperation with federal immigration authorities. Specifically the bill seeks to lessen the impact of the Obama administration’s immigration enforcement program known as Secure Communities (S-Comm), which compels local police to conduct mandatory immigration checks of everyone booked into local jails. While the TRUST Act wouldn’t completely terminate the relationship between police and immigration enforcement, it would limit immigrant detainers to those suspects with previous convictions for a serious or violent felony.
Proponents of the TRUST Act, which passed the California legislature on August 24th, say that the bill is actually good for law enforcement because it attempts to repair the damaged relationship between local police and immigrant communities caused by the S-Comm program. S-Comm was supposed to focus resources on deporting “dangerous” and “violent” undocumented immigrants. In California alone 75,000 people have been deported through the program and more than half those deportees were convicted of no crime or a minor offense. Twenty-two Democratic members of Congress from California — including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) sent a letter to Brown urging him to sign the bill into law so that immigrant communities are not afraid to report crimes or cooperate with investigations.
Governor Brown could be feeling the pressure from Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton. In a letter addressed to the anti-immigrant organization, Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), Morton came down against efforts to squash S-Comm’s reach through legislation. Morton told FAIR, a hate group according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, that such efforts undermine public safety and may violate federal law. FAIR took language from Morton’s letter to create an action alert urging it’s members to contact Brown’s office telling him to veto. B. Lowe, a spokesperson from the National Day Laborer’s Organizing Network said of the letter, “The director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s sympathizing openly with a known hate group is outrageous. Morton’s letter is further proof that ICE is an agency gone rogue. ICE’s own record is the strongest reason that local protections, like the TRUST Act, which is awaiting Governor Brown’s signature in California, are so necessary.”
The California State Sheriffs’ Association and Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca have also come out against the TRUST Act, written by San Francisco Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, saying it prioritizes state law over federal law. A letter signed last month by 30 law professors counters this assertion and states that the sheriffs’ argument is both wrong and unconstitutional as it violates a Supreme Court decision holding that federal agencies cannot force state and local employees to assist in the enforcement of federal law. And not all California law enforcement is against the TRUST Act. The Sheriff of Santa Clara County and police chiefs of both Oakland and San Francisco, have come out in favor of the bill.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D), Illinois Governor Pat Quinn (D), and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick (D), all attempted to opt their states out of Secure Communities before being told by the Obama administration that the program was not optional.
Frank Sherry, Director of the immigration advocacy organization America’s Voice said in a statement, “Governor Brown has a choice to make — and that choice will impact immigrant communities throughout California. If he vetoes the TRUST Act, Brown will find himself in lockstep with Jan Brewer, John Morton, and FAIR. That’s out of character for Brown — and for California. By signing TRUST, Brown will ally himself with immigrants and follow the lead of Governors Cuomo, Quinn and Patrick. He’ll also keep California on the right path.”