Gov. Jerry Brown signed a slate of immigration-related bills Saturday, including the Trust Act, which limits local law enforcement agencies' use of federal holds on undocumented immigrants booked into local jails.
The bill, AB 4 by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, prohibits local police agencies from holding individuals on federal immigration detainers unless they are charged with or convicted of a serious felony or certain misdemeanors, or if they are registered sex offenders. It creates a statewide standard for how local agencies comply with the federal Secure Communities program.
"Soon, immigrant Californians and their family members will have the confidence that minor or unjustified arrests for things like selling food without a permit or having dogs that bark too loudly will not lead to extended and costly detentions in our local jails for deportation purposes," said Reshma Shamasunder, executive director of the California Immigrant Policy Center.
Brown vetoed a similar bill a year ago, but this year's bill was amended to increase the list of crimes that would keep immigrants in jail until federal immigration officials could take custody.
Immigration advocates have long argued that immigration holds — used in conjunction with the federal Secure Communities program — often ensnare U.S. citizens, legal immigrants and undocumented immigrants jailed for minor offenses or charges that later are dropped.
"It's incredible. When the rest of the country is falling behind on immigration reform, California is taking the lead," said Jesus Guzman, a local immigration advocate who first heard the news on Twitter.
Sonoma County Sheriff Steve Freitas has been a staunch opponent of the bill. Freitas said that if signed into law, the bill would force him to choose between violating the new state law or federal rules, which require local law enforcement officials to honor immigration detainers.
Last year, Freitas told local supporters of the bill that he would challenge the new law in court. But in early September, Freitas said publicly that while he still opposes the bill he would not spend county resources fighting it in court.
Representatives from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement were unavailable to comment Saturday because of the federal government shutdown, according to a voicemail greeting at the agency.
The bill was part of package of immigration-related bills that Brown signed Saturday in what appeared to be a sympathetic move supporting immigration advocates' call for Congress to adopt a comprehensive bill that would deal fairly with the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States.
Last week, Brown signed a bill that would require the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue special driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants, reversing a 20-year old law that has landed many undocumented immigrants in jail for driving infractions.
"While Washington waffles on immigration, California's forging ahead," Governor Brown said. "I'm not waiting."
Aside from the Trust Act, the governor signed the following immigration-related bills Saturday:
AB 35, which orders that immigration consultants, attorneys, notaries public, and organizations accredited by the United States Board of Immigration Appeals are the only people who can charge a fee for providing services associated with filing an application under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's deferred action program.
AB 524, which defines as extortion any threat of reporting the immigration status or suspected immigration status of an individual or the individual's family in an effort to induce fear.