Senate OKs limiting local immigrant detentions
By DON THOMPSON
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Local law enforcement agencies would be prohibited from detaining people for deportation if they are living in the country illegally and are arrested for a minor crime, under a bill approved by the state Senate on Monday.
AB4 by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, creates a statewide standard for how local agencies comply with the federal Secure Communities program, which requires law enforcement to check the immigration status of anyone arrested. Some local governments have detained those who are found to be in the country illegally until they can be picked up by immigration officials.
“Innocent people have been deported,” said Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, who carried the bill in the Senate.
Seven of every 10 immigrants deported under the program were not convicted of any major crime, he said. He cited examples of individuals being caught up in deportation proceedings because they reported domestic violence or gang activity, or for traffic violations like a broken taillight.
As a result, he said, immigrants “are losing faith and they’re losing trust in law enforcement.” The bill known as the Trust Act would improve public safety by encouraging immigrants’ cooperation with police, supporters said.
Offenders suspected of felonies could still be held for deportation, de Leon said, while those convicted of felonies could still be deported after they serve their sentences. Local law enforcement agencies could also detain those who were previously convicted of a serious or violent felony.
The bill passed 24-10 and returns to the Assembly.
Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed similar legislation last year because it did not let officials detain those convicted of crimes such as child abuse and drug trafficking. Those crimes have been exempted from this year’s version.
Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, who once headed the state’s parole board, said the ability to detain some suspects on immigration holds is invaluable because it gives police time to investigate the underlying crime.
“This is a critical tool to law enforcement. You’re throwing it in the wastebasket,” he said.
Opponents also argue it could jeopardize federal funding if the state differs from national immigration policy.
The Legislature’s consideration comes as Congress considers its own immigration reform plan.