How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

California clears way for revised 'Trust Act', which aims to limit deportations

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UPDATE: The state Assembly has voted to approve the amended Trust Act, as approved by the Senate on Monday. The bill cleared an Assembly concurrence vote 48-22 late Tuesday morning, according to Carlos Alcalá, a spokesman for bill sponsor Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco). The bill now goes to Gov. Jerry Brown, who has until Oct. 13 to sign it.

The idea behind the bill is to shrink the net cast by Secure Communities, a federal program designed for local law enforcement to automatically share with federal immigration agents the fingerprints of people booked or arrested. Critics have complained that while the program aims to deport criminals, many non-criminals have been funneled into the deportation process.

Still, some law enforcement officials would like to keep Secure Communities just the way it is. A spokesman for Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca said Baca has gotten behind the amended Trust Act, but there are others who don’t support it.

“We remain opposed,"  said Aaron Maguire, of the California State Sheriff’s Association. "The bill, no question about it, is a vast improvement over the previous iteration that got sent down to the governor’s desk last year. And so we appreciate the amendments that were taken to address the issue of people committing prior crimes. However, we do remain concerned about the bill.”

ORIGINAL POST: It seems like deja vu, but the controversial California immigration bill known as the Trust Act is making its way toward Gov. Jerry Brown's office for approval.

A previous version of the bill, which barred state and local police from holding undocumented immigrants for deportation if they had no serious criminal record, was vetoed by Brown last fall.  The governor said the legislation failed to provide a comprehensive list clearly defining what constituted a serious crime.

But on Monday, a revised version cleared the state Senate by an initial vote of 24-10. It now heads back to the Assembly for a concurrence vote on amendments before moving on to Brown's desk.

This time, Brown's office has had input. In July, after the bill cleared a key committee vote, a spokesman for Brown said the governor's office was "working closely with the bill author to address the concerns Gov. Brown raised in his previous veto message."

The bill's language has been tightened since last year, when Brown complained in his veto message that it was "fatally flawed" because it omitted too many serious crimes as grounds for a deportation hold at the request of federal agents.

The bill's previous language limited deportation holds to immigrants who had committed serious or violent offenses. This year's revised bill now defines these offenses more clearly, and sets tighter parameters. For example, people with some non-violent felony offenses would still be eligible for deportation holds , such as immigrants with felony DUI convictions.

People could also be held for deportation if they've been convicted of what's called a "wobbler" — an offense that can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor; police would be allowed to hold a person convicted of a misdemeanor "wobbler" in the past five years.

The version voted on by the Senate also included a couple of new amendments suggested by Brown's office, said Carlos Alcalá, a spokesman for bill sponsor Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco). He said these include an amendment allowing deportation holds for immigrants with outstanding felony arrest warrants, even if not yet convicted, and another tacking on a list of federal felonies for which people can be held.

Alcalá said the Assembly vote, which could take place as early as Wednesday, will take in these changes.

"We hope we are on the right track now," he said.

Immigrants with clean records, straight misdemeanor convictions or simply prior deportation orders would still be spared from deportation holds, however.

The goal of Trust Act proponents is to limit the reach of the net cast by Secure Communities, a federal program begun in 2008 that allows the fingerprints of people booked by local authorities to be shared with immigration officials. Critics of Secure Communities have long complained that while the intent is to find and deport dangerous criminals, too many non-offenders and minor offenders have been swept up and placed in deportation proceedings as a result.

Ammiano has been pushing versions of the Trust Act (an acronym for "Transparency and Responsibility Using State Tools") since 2011. 

This story has been updated.

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