TRUST Act Makes Progress in California

shutterstock_14160409Just before the Fourth of July, the California Senate Public Safety Committee approved the TRUST Act by a vote of 4-2.. The state Assembly previously passed the measure in May, so now the bill heads to the Senate floor. It is the third version of the California TRUST Act considered by the state legislature, which “would limit who state and local police can hold for deportation.” Gov. Jerry Brown (D) vetoed a previous version of the bill last fall.

In his veto message, Brown said he could not sign the bill as written because it omitted many crimes he considered serious but that are not classified as violent or serious felonies under California law. But this time around, the bill has the governor’s input. “We’re working closely with the bill author to address the concerns Gov. Brown raised in his previous veto message,” said Brown spokesman Evan Westrup. While Carlos Alcalá, a spokesman for the bill’s sponsor, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D), described the re-introduced version of the TRUST Act as “sort of our ideal,” Alcalá said Brown’s office suggested a provision to allow deportation holds for a wider range of crimes that is included in the amended version of the TRUST Act. The bill also draws lines as to which offenses will lead to a deportation hold:

Immigrants with some non-violent felony offenses would still be eligible for deportation holds — for example, people with felony DUI convictions. Other convictions under which people could be held would include “wobblers” — offenses that can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor; cops would be allowed to hold a person convicted of a misdemeanor “wobbler” in the past five years.

In short, the amended bill would now mostly spare immigrants with clean or semi-clean records. Deportation holds would not be allowed for immigrants with straight misdemeanor convictions, nor for those with prior deportation orders.

If the TRUST Act became law, it would not stop federal immigration officials from arresting and deporting immigrants who are acquitted or convicted of only minor offenses, but the bill would minimize the impact of Secure Communities by limiting the situations in which local jurisdictions could honor federal immigration “detainers.” In response to Secure Communities, California Attorney General Kamala Harris advised law enforcement officials in December 2012 that state and local agencies are not obligated to hold immigrants at the federal government’s request. But supporters of the TRUST Act “argue that legislation is still necessary because Harris’ guidance is discretionary, and agencies don’t apply it evenly,” according to Southern California Public Radio.

Meanwhile, the Connecticut legislature unanimously passed its version of the TRUST Act, and a similar bill is pending in Massachusetts. With the changes to address the governor’s previous concerns, advocates are hoping the third time will be the charm for the TRUST Act in California.

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