Moral Low Ground


California Trust Act: State Senate Passes “Anti-Arizona” Immigration Bill

California’s senate voted Thursday in favor of a bill designed to protect undocumented immigrants from status checks by local police, a measure also meant to express rejection of Republican-backed immigration crackdowns in Arizona, Alabama and other states.

Assembly Bill 1081, the California Trust Act, passed the Democrat-controlled senate by a vote of 21-13. Many supporters of the measure have called it the “anti-Arizona” bill, a refutation of that state’s harsh anti-undocumented immigrant law, SB 1070, the so-called “show me your papers law.” The most contentious portion of SB 1070, which mandates that police check the immigration status of people they stop– even for petty violations like jaywalking, was upheld by the US Supreme Court last month.

Opponents of the Arizona law argue that it inevitably results in racial profiling of Latinos, by far the largest minority in the state.

The California measure would protect undocumented immigrants from such status checks. It also bars local police from transferring detainees to federal immigration officials for deportation unless they have been convicted of a violent crime or serious felony. Police will be instructed to release undocumented immigrants rather than hand them over to federal authorities.

The bill already passed the state Assembly in May. That body will vote on the measure again following summer recess, but the big question is whether Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, will sign or veto it.

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, a San Francisco Democrat and sponsor of the bill, hailed its passage in the senate.

“Today’s vote signals to the nation that California cannot afford to be another Arizona,” he said in a statement.

“The bill also limits unjust and onerous detentions for deportation in local jails of community members who do not pose a threat to public safety,” he added.

Immigrant rights groups also welcomed the bill’s passage, as did police chiefs and mayors throughout the state. Many California municipalities, including the state’s four largest cities (Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose and San Francisco) are sanctuary cities, meaning that no public funds or resources are expended enforcing federal immigration laws.

AB 1081 is also a rejection of Secure Communities, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) program that works with local law enforcement and the FBI to catch and deport undocumented immigrants. Under Secure Communities, local police forward fingerprints of apprehended immigrants to ICE, which then identifies those who are in the country illegally and moves to deport them.

Secure Communities helped establish 2011 as the year with the highest number of deportations– nearly 400,000— on record. Assemblyman Ammiano claims the program is responsible for more than 72,000 Californians being deported, 70 percent of whom had no criminal convictions or only convictions for petty offenses.

Gov. Brown signed the Secure Communities agreement with the Obama administration while he was California’s attorney general. He presides over a state with the highest number of undocumented immigrants– some 2.6 million– in the United States.


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