How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Amended 'Trust Act' moves forward in Sacramento

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A California bill that would limit who state and local police can hold for deportation continues on its third trip around the state legislature, clearing a Senate committee vote on Tuesday. And it has now had input from the office of Gov. Jerry Brown, who vetoed a previous version of the bill last fall.

"We’re working closely with the bill author to address the concerns Gov. Brown raised in his previous veto message," said Evan Westrup, a spokesman for the governor.

An amended version of the bill known as the Trust Act passed 4-2 in the Senate Public Safety Committee on Tuesday, said Carlos Alcalá, a spokesman for the bill's sponsor, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco). It still seeks to restrict who can be held, but as amended, it would exempt fewer immigrants from deportation holds than previous versions. Alcalá said the bill now includes provisions suggested by Brown's office that would allow deportation holds for people convicted of a wider range of crimes.

The bill's previous language limited those who could be held to people with serious or violent offenses. The amended bill defines these offenses more clearly, and draws lines as to which offenses will get someone held.

Immigrants with some non-violent felony offenses would still be eligible for deportation holds — for example, people with felony DUI convictions. Other convictions under which people could be held would include "wobblers" — offenses that can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor; cops would be allowed to hold a person convicted of a misdemeanor "wobbler" in the past five years.

In short, the amended bill would now mostly spare immigrants with clean or semi-clean records. Deportation holds would not be allowed for immigrants with straight misdemeanor convictions, nor for those with prior deportation orders.

Although the bill as reintroduced earlier this year "was sort of our ideal," Alcalá said, the changes do bring it closer to what Brown may have had in mind when he issued his veto last September, stating in his memo that the bill was "fatally flawed because it omits many serious crimes."

The most recently introduced Trust Act (an acronym for "Transparency and Responsibility Using State Tools") cleared the state Assembly in May. It's the third version of the bill to make it around the statehouse since 2011. Brown vetoed the second version.

The goal of its backers has been to limit the impact of Secure Communities, a federal program that allows fingerprints of people booked by local authorities to be shared with immigration officials, which could lead to the person being held for deportation. Critics of Secure Communities have long complained that while the program's intent is to find deportable criminals, it lands too many minor  offenders and non-offenders in deportation proceedings.

In December of 2012, California Attorney General Kamala Harris issued a bulletin advising that state and local law enforcement agencies aren't obligated by law to hold immigrants at the federal government's request. At the time, some California law enforcement leaders, including Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, said they would adjust their policies. But Trust Act supporters argue that legislation is still necessary because Harris' guidance is  discretionary, and agencies don't apply it evenly.

Westrup wouldn't say if Brown is more inclined to sign the bill this time. Immigration activists staged a sit-in Tuesday at Brown's office in Sacramento in hopes of convincing him to sign. The amended bill must now go back to the Assembly for approval before it gets a full Senate vote.

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