Gov. Jerry Brown is celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with a Mexican hat dance.
The Democrat signed one bill that will probably wind up helping a small number of people and, with regard to another bill, issued a veto that will likely hurt many more.
The bill that Brown signed gives driver's licenses to young illegal immigrants, i.e., DREAMers, who are given deferred action by the Obama administration. It affects a sliver of the estimated 3 million illegal immigrants in California, most of whom come from Mexico. Nationwide, only about 120,000 DREAMers stepped forward to apply for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. To date, according to an immigration lawyer who handled one of the cases, fewer than 100 people in the entire country have been granted the two-year reprieve from deportation.
Meanwhile, the bill that Brown vetoed — known as the TRUST Act — affected thousands of lives. It would have barred local law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration agents in detaining suspects for deportation unless they were charged with serious or violent felonies.
Currently, a nanny who is undocumented but has no criminal record can be pulled over for a busted taillight and get arrested, fingerprinted and handed over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for deportation.
ICE's favorite chew toy is the program called Secure Communities, or SCOMM. The initiative — which requires local law enforcement to submit to federal authorities the fingerprints of anyone they arrest who might be in the country illegally (read: Latinos) — began in late 2008 but was expanded nationwide by the Obama administration. It is snake oil. Localities and states were conned into signing on with assurances that their participation was voluntary and that the program would focus only on serious and violent criminals. Both were untrue.
Some of SCOMM's harshest critics are President Barack Obama's fellow Democrats — Rep. Zoe Lofgren of San Jose, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, as well as California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, who wrote the TRUST Act to restore sanity to law enforcement, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who voiced support for the bill.
The media spun the legislation as an "anti-Arizona" bill intended to keep the Golden State from going over to the dark side. But the TRUST Act was really anti-SCOMM.
Brown wouldn't go along. Anyway, it's not like he was a critic of SCOMM to begin with; in 2009, while serving as state attorney general, Brown supported the program and signed the agreements with the federal government that wound up bringing so much turmoil into the lives of undocumented immigrants whose labor keeps California — especially its $40-billion-a-year agriculture industry — humming along.
Brown's veto was a mistake. But what was really offensive — and a wakeup call to Latinos who sheepishly give Democrats a pass on their immigration foibles while hammering Republicans — was how he tried to justify it.
The governor's statement on the veto was only 226 words. Yet remarkably, in that small space, he managed to insult the intelligence of Californians three different times.
First, Brown — failing to mention his past support for SCOMM — issued a hypocritical statement in which he insisted that "federal agents shouldn't try to coerce local law enforcement officers into detaining people who've been picked up for minor offenses and pose no reasonable threat to their community."
California pot: Smoke it (or eat it) if you can get it
OAKLAND — It wasn’t exactly reefer madness Monday as California launched the first legal sales of recreational marijuana, but those who could find the drug celebrated the historic day, lining up early for ribbon cuttings, freebies and offerings ranging from cookies to gummy bears to weed with names like heaven mountain.
Jeff Deakin, 66, his wife Mary and their dog waited in the cold all night to be first in a line of 100 people when Harborside dispensary, a longtime medical pot shop in Oakland, opened at 6 a.m. and offered early customers joints for a penny and free T-shirts that read “Flower to the People — Cannabis for All.”
“It’s been so long since others and myself could walk into a place where you could feel safe and secure and be able to get something that was good without having to go to the back alley,” Deakin said. “This is kind of a big deal for everybody.”
Harborside founder Steve DeAngelo used a giant pair of scissors to cut a green ribbon, declaring, “With these scissors I dub thee free,” before ringing up the first customer at a cash register.
Sales were brisk in the shops lucky to score one of the roughly 100 state licenses issued so far, but customers in some of the state’s largest cities were out of luck. Los Angeles and San Francisco hadn’t authorized shops in time to get state licenses and other cities, such as Riverside and Fresno, blocked sales altogether.
Licensed shops are concentrated in the San Francisco Bay Area, San Diego, around Palm Springs, San Jose and Santa Cruz, where the KindPeoples shop tacked up a banner Monday declaring, “Prohibition is Over!”
The state banned what it called “loco-weed” in 1913, though it has eased criminal penalties for use of the drug since the 1970s and was the first state to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes in 1996.
California voters in 2016 made it legal for adults 21 and older to grow, possess and use limited quantities of marijuana, but it wasn’t legal to sell it for recreational purposes until Monday.
The nation’s most populous state now joins a growing list of states, and the nation’s capital, where so-called recreational marijuana is permitted even though the federal government continues to classify pot as a controlled substance, like heroin and LSD.
The signs that California was tripping toward legal pot sales were evident well before the stroke of midnight. California highways flashed signs before New Year’s Eve that said “Drive high, Get a DUI,” reflecting law enforcement concerns about stoned drivers. Weedmaps, the phone app that allows customers to rate shops, delivery services and shows their locations, ran a full-page ad Sunday in the Los Angeles Times that said, “Smile California. It’s Legal.”
Travis Lund, 34, said he’d been looking forward while working the graveyard shift to buy weed legally for the first time since he began smoking pot as a teen.
“I’m just stoked that it’s finally legal,” he said after purchasing an eighth of an ounce of “Mount Zion” and another type of loose leaf marijuana at Northstar Holistic Collective in Sacramento, where the fragrance of pot was strong. “I’m going to go home and get high — and enjoy it.”
Find more in-depth cannabis news, culture and politics at EmeraldReport.com, authoritative marijuana coverage from the PD.