Gov. Brown Signs Law Limiting Detention of Immigrants

Saturday, Oct 5, 2013  |  Updated 10:18 PM PDT
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Brown Curbs Deportation for Minor Crimes

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California Gov. Jerry Brown speaks during a news conference at the Port of Oakland on July 9, 2012, in Oakland, Calif.

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A package of immigration-related bills earned California Gov. Jerry Brown's signature Saturday, including a bill that prohibits local law enforcement agencies from detaining people for deportation if they are arrested for a minor crime and otherwise eligible to be released from custody.

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 those who are arrested and to hold for 48 hours anyone whom federal authorities wish to detain.

The law Brown signed allows state and local police and sheriff's departments to detain immigrants only if they have been arrested for or convicted of certain serious or violent felonies. People could also be held if they were convicted of a misdemeanor crime that carries a felony equivalent or if they are registered as sex offenders.

The governor vetoed a similar measure last year because it did not let officials detain those convicted of crimes such as child abuse and drug trafficking, exemptions that were removed from this year's version.

The California District Attorneys Association remained opposed to the legislation, however, expressing concern it “could result in the inappropriate and untimely release of potentially dangerous offenders” and “would frustrate local cooperation with federal officials who maintain exclusive province over the enforcement of immigration law.”

“It appears that this bill would permit a local policy to trump federal law, and it is not clear how such a provision would pass constitutional muster,” the association wrote before the bill cleared the Legislature.

The guidance spelling out when officers would comply with the federal deportation program was one of eight immigration-related measures Brown signed as he faces an Oct. 13 deadline for approving or vetoing legislation.

The governor also approved a bill allowing lawyers to be admitted to the California bar even if they are living in the U.S. illegally.

The package of bills also included a measure stating that someone who threatens to report an immigrant's illegal status to authorities could be charged with criminal extortion, and a related law subjecting employers who retaliate against workers on the basis of immigration to fines and the loss of their business licenses.

Also on Saturday, immigrants and supporters marched through Hollywood as part of an effort taking place across the nation pushing for immigration reform.

The event called "March of the Stars" lasted several hours Saturday and was one of more than 150 that are part of what organizers are billing as a "National Day for Dignity and Respect." The mobilization was a prelude to a rally and free concert Tuesday on the National Mall in Washington.

Immigration has been a rare area of bipartisan cooperation and confidence was boosted earlier in the year on a sweeping overhaul of the system and a path to citizenship for millions. But the crisis over Syria, and now the partial government shutdown, has diverted the attention of legislators in D.C.

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