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Immigration-rights advocates criticize Gov. Brown's veto of Trust Act

Immigration-rights advocates are criticizing Gov. Jerry Brown for signing what they called a hollow, symbolic bill while vetoing one of the most closely watched pieces of immigration legislation in the country
Immigration-rights advocates are criticizing Gov. Jerry Brown for signing what they called a hollow, symbolic bill while vetoing one of the most closely watched pieces of immigration legislation in the country.

The bill that Brown signed, which lets some young immigrants have driver's licenses, allows nothing beyond what is permitted under a new federal program granting a two-year reprieve from deportation.

But the bill that the governor vetoed -- the so-called Trust Act -- would have barred local law enforcement officials from cooperating with federal authorities in detaining suspected illegal immigrants, except in the cases of serious or violent crime.

"Gov. Brown waited until the eleventh hour to veto the most ... impactful bill that would bring tremendous relief for the immigrant community," said Carlos Amador of Dream Team Los Angeles. "But he decided to sign a symbolic and hollow bill that doesn't bring anything more than what we already had ... to apply for a driver's license."

Brown's actions amounted to a setback for illegal immigrants, said Yale law professor Michael Wishnie.

"I'm signing this bill that's unnecessary ... and that somehow balances out" the Trust Act? "It doesn't add up," Wishnie said.

Under the federal Secure Communities program, everyone arrested in California on criminal charges is evaluated for immigration status. At the request of federal authorities, sheriff's deputies can detain suspects for 48 hours before handing them over to federal custody.

In his veto message, the governor said the Trust Act legislation was "fatally flawed" because some crimes, such as child abuse, drug trafficking and the selling of weapons, would not trigger the deportation process.

"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," Brown wrote. "The significant flaws in this bill can be fixed, and I will work with the Legislature to see that the bill is corrected forthwith."

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca had vowed to defy the legislation if it was signed. But the California State Sheriffs' Assn. was open to discussing a modified version of the measure, said Marin County Sheriff Bob Doyle. Many sheriffs, including Baca, objected to the bill because they said it would have forced them to choose between state and federal law.

"Our interests are always in public safety. I don't think states should be getting in the immigration business. I think that's the federal government's responsibility," Doyle said. "I personally believe that if someone's here illegally, they should be returned to their country of origin."

Despite Brown's veto, California remains one of the nation's most immigrant-friendly states, allowing undocumented college students to pay in-state tuition and, soon, to receive state financial aid.

"It's arguably the most welcoming environment for illegal immigrants," said Bob Dane, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, an anti-illegal-immigration group. "It's hard to imagine any rational reason for expanding the welcome wagon. Once again, illegal aliens are in the driver's seat in California."


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Photo: Sylvia Lopez, right, participates along with her daughter Daniela Martinez, second from right, as hundreds rallied at MacArthur Park over the weekend in support of the so-called Trust Act. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times

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