Brown signs bill limiting detention duration for undocumented immigrants held for minor offenses

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Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill Saturday that limits the amount of time local law enforcement agencies can detain undocumented immigrants held for minor offenses.

The TRUST Act, or the Transparency and Responsibility Using State Tools Act, will prevent local law enforcement agencies from detaining undocumented individuals on behalf of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for more than 48 hours if they are eligible for release or have not committed a serious felony.

Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, introduced the bill as a response to the Secure Communities federal program, which allows the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to screen detainees based on their immigration status by running their fingerprints through a federal database.

“While Washington waffles on immigration, California’s forging ahead,” Brown said in a press release. “I’m not waiting.”

Last fall, Brown vetoed an earlier iteration of the law, requesting that certain types of serious crimes that were not part of that version, such as child abuse, be included in the list of serious felonies.

The law Brown signed had been amended to include the changes and is designed to  help rebuild trust between immigrant communities and local law enforcement. According to the law, undocumented residents are less likely to cooperate with police when it “could result in deportation.”

Secure Communities has led to the deportation of more than 90,000 California residents — more than in any other state, according to data from the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties.

Last Tuesday, UC President Janet Napolitano, previously Secretary of Homeland Security, met with students who were part of the Statewide Multicultural Student Coalition, a universitywide group of undocumented students and their supporters that formed in response to her appointment.

At the meeting, Napolitano informed the students that she had discussed the TRUST Act with Brown, telling him she thought it would be “good for the state of California,” said UC spokesperson Shelly Meron.

Leti Volpp, a professor of law at UC Berkeley, said California should encourage legislation that recognizes immigrants as part of the community rather than removing them from it.

However, Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, D.C., raised concerns about public safety issues and how law enforcement officials would be able to arbitrarily determine which individuals will be subject to immigration enforcement.

“(The law would) force them to release people who should be left in custody,” Vaughan said.

According to the Pew Hispanic Center, undocumented individuals accounted for 6.8 percent of California’s population and 9.7 percent of the state’s labor force in 2010.

There are about 200 undocumented students on campus as of 2012, according to Meng So, the campus’s first undocumented student program coordinator.

Volpp said she hopes the TRUST Act will “remove daily insecurities” for undocumented students in California.

Contact Jeff Landa at [email protected].