Undocumented immigrants who commit minor crimes should not be deported.
If Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation known as the TRUST Act, that principle would be state law. But he vetoed the bill, saying that it was “fatally flawed.” Under the bill, local law enforcement would not comply with an immigration detainer unless an undocumented immigrant committed serious or violent crimes. Brown argued that many crimes, such as those involving drug trafficking and child abuse, were left out of the bill. While his veto is understandable because the bill should be as complete as possible, it is a major setback for progress on immigration policy.
Brown could have prevented a veto by ensuring that when the TRUST Act reached his desk, it was a bill he could sign. In his veto message, Brown made it clear that he supports the idea of the act and wants it to become law; he stated that federal officials shouldn’t “coerce” local law enforcement into holding people who “pose no reasonable threat to their community.” But if the governor really supported the act wholeheartedly, he should have communicated his concerns to the Legislature. If enacted into law, this act would have huge implications, providing much-needed protection for the many undocumented immigrants Brown seems to support.
Without the act’s passage, undocumented immigrants across the state remain at risk unnecessarily. It is unfair to leave open to deportation individuals who grew up in the United States, make valuable contributions to society and pose no threat to their community. Deportation resulting from a minor crime is the worst case scenario, but it is a very real threat for many people until the TRUST Act becomes law. That fear has also “eroded community trust for local law enforcement,” according to a statement on the website of the the act’s author, state Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco.
Despite these negative consequences, and the criticism that the veto prompted, Brown’s decision is not indicative of his overall attitude toward undocumented immigrants. Aside from his veto message, Brown proved his support for that community in the past when he signed the state DREAM Act into law — allowing undocumented students to receive financial aid — and, more recently, when he signed a bill that will enable some undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses.
At the local level, Berkeley City Council voted in June to craft a policy aimed at accomplishing the same end as the TRUST Act. City Councilmember Jesse Arreguin indicated that the city is still proceeding with its plans despite the act’s failures, and it should. Since reform is moving much too slowly at the state level, the least the city can do is protect the local community.
It is imperative that the state move quickly to amend the TRUST Act’s deficiencies as soon as possible. Brown claimed in his veto message that he “will work with the Legislature to see that the bill is corrected forthwith.” He must live up to his word.