NAVARRETTE: Brown betrays trust with immigration veto

  • Gov. Jerry Brown, left, discusses a bill with Legislative Deputy Brian Putler, right, Executive Secretary Nancy McFadden and Legislative Affairs Secretary Gareth Elliott, second from left, at his Capitol office Friday, Sept. 21, 2012, in Sacramento, Calif. Brown has until Sept. 30 to sign or veto hundreds of bills approved by the lawmakers in the closing days of the Legislative session.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

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.

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