Jerry Brown's veto of immigration bill draws fire

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 3A

Advocates reacted angrily Monday to Gov. Jerry Brown's veto of a bill designed to curtail the deportation of undocumented immigrants arrested on minor or nonviolent offenses.

Assembly Bill 1081 would have prohibited local law enforcement agencies from holding arrestees for federal immigration authorities unless the crime or conviction involved a serious or violent felony.

Known by supporters as the "Trust Act," the measure was touted by its author, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, as a way to save money and police time by limiting use of local jails for immigration enforcement, an obligation of the federal government.

Brown, in vetoing AB 1081, applauded the role that undocumented immigrants play in the state's economy and expressed support for comprehensive immigration reform, including a path to citizenship.

"Until we have immigration reform, 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," Brown wrote in his veto message.

But Ammiano's bill was flawed because its definition of serious or violent omitted many major crimes, he said. "For example, the bill would bar local cooperation even when the person arrested has been convicted of certain crimes involving child abuse, drug trafficking, selling weapons, using children to sell drugs, or gangs," Brown wrote.

"I believe it's unwise to interfere with a sheriff's discretion to comply with a detainer issued for people with these kinds of troubling criminal records," he concluded.

Ammiano, in a prepared statement released Monday, wasn't buying the explanation.

"The governor appears to be following in the footsteps of his 'Hasta la vista' predecessor," he said. "He's telling those who attempt to establish productive new lives in California that they are not welcome, but that ICE" – Immigration and Customs Enforcement – "is welcome to deport them – regardless of what they may or may not have done."

Brown vowed to work with the Legislature to correct deficiencies and craft a law he can sign in the future.

Ammiano, D-San Francisco, had hailed AB 1081 as California's counter to a controversial Arizona law, upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, that allows police to check the immigration status of people they stop in the normal course of their duties.

AB 1081 would have curtailed the practice of local law enforcement agencies holding an arrestee who is an undocumented immigrant for 48 hours upon request by immigration authorities for possible deportation.

Opponents said that assisting the federal government in enforcing immigration laws is good public policy. They said AB 1081 would make communities less safe by releasing undocumented offenders rather than enabling their deportation.

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