Governor vetoes legislation aimed at protecting undocumented immigrants from deportation for minor offenses

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Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill Sunday night that aimed to prevent deportation of undocumented immigrants caught committing a minor offense, despite strong public backing for the act.

The vetoed TRUST Act — or AB 1081, introduced by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano — would have prohibited local law enforcement officials from complying with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement unless the undocumented immigrant was previously convicted or charged with a serious or violent felony.

Despite the bill’s passage in both the state Senate and Assembly, Brown vetoed it because he said the bill fails to include many types of serious crime.

“I am unable to sign this as written,” Brown wrote in a released statement addressed to the members of the California State Assembly. “The bill is fatally flawed because it omits many serious crimes.”

Brown cited examples of serious crimes such as child abuse, drug trafficking and selling weapons, which were not included in the definition specified by the bill.

“(Brown) has always been on the side of Latinos and immigrants, but the bill has to be better,” said Gil Duran, the governor’s press secretary.

Under current policies, undocumented immigrants can be detained and held by local authorities if they cannot produce documentation of their citizenship. Authorities are then able to call ICE, which can decide to arrest or deport the immigrants under the federal Secure Communities program.

Berkeley City Councilmember Jesse Arreguin said Brown’s veto comes as a huge disappointment because of how much effort went into crafting the bill.

“I am very dismayed that he didn’t sign it,” Arreguin said. “It’s a setback for justice and fairness.”

Arreguin said he was concerned about how a deportation affects a family and the community, since many immigrants are deported for minor offenses such as being pulled over for running a stoplight.

“The majority who are detained and deported are charged with low-level offenses,” he said. “It negatively divides families.”

A UC Berkeley student who wished to remain anonymous due to fear of deportation said her sister — an undocumented immigrant — could have avoided the fallout from a run-in with law enforcement last year if legislation such as the TRUST Act had existed at the time.

Police questioned her sister in Southern California because she was sitting in her car in a parking lot after hours. Since the sister was unable to present a valid California ID, she was detained for four days.

“Just because (my sister) didn’t have an ID, it’s not a good excuse to kick her out of the country,” the student said. “She’s a good student and athlete — it’s not fair.”

While the issue may not be as significant in Berkeley, other places, like Richmond and Southern California, face higher numbers of mass deportation, Arreguin said.

Despite the veto of the TRUST Act, Berkeley city officials are working on changing the policy of holding undocumented immigrants in jail, Arreguin said. He hopes to present the policy change to City Council soon.

“This is not a setback locally,” he said. “We are in the process of developing a policy that would model the TRUST Act.”

Although Brown vetoed the bill, he is not opposed to the general concept of the act and said he will work to fix the issues.

“The significant flaws in this bill can be fixed, and I will work with the Legislature to see that the bill is corrected forthwith,” he stated in the release.

Contact Andrea Guzman at [email protected]