Immigration continues to be a hot topic in many states, especially at the federal level. Last Tuesday, California lawmakers sent proposed legislation to Gov. Jerry Brown that includes several controversial measures to expand immigrant rights.
One of the most sensitive immigration measures is referred to as the Trust Act, which would restrict local law enforcement from detaining anyone arrested on minor offenses for possible deportation. This bill would significantly scale back California’s current involvement with the federally run immigration program known as Secure Communities. Currently, this program requires local law enforcement agencies to share the fingerprints of all people arrested. The immigration department often requests that all individuals suspected of being in the country illegally be detained and transferred to federal custody.
The Secure Communities program has been highly controversial in California because of its large immigrant population. Many districts have fought back. For example, last year, Los Angeles Police chief Charlie Beck said that his department would not hand over people arrested for low-level crimes to federal authorities. Subsequently, the State Attorney General Kamala Harris informed law enforcement agencies throughout the state of California that complying with the Secure Communities program was optional.
Many California critics of this program feel it has led to unfair deportations of people in the country illegally because they were detained by police on the suspicion of minor offenses such as street vending and traffic violations.
Assemblyman V. Manuel Perez, who is a Democrat, supports the Trust Act, stating that the bill would “advance the goals of protecting families and communities, restoring trust in law enforcement and focusing public resources on threats to public safety.” On the other side of the debate, Republican Brian Jones said it showed lawmakers “finding ways and excuses to go soft on crime.”
Another immigration measure laying on the desk of the governor would make it illegal to report workers’ immigration status in retaliation against an employee who files a complaint about unsafe working conditions or sexual harassment.
California is a hot-bed for immigration rights and undoubtedly, the debates on both sides will rage on for well into the forseeable future. It will be interesting to see what stance Governor Brown takes on these all-important issues and what types of precedents his actions will establish as it relates to immigration rights in other states.
As an immigration attorney, I’ll be closely watching the situation in California. Governor Brown needs to takes the time to properly evaluate the arguments on both sides as it relates to immigration reform since some of these more serious issues, including unfair targeting and fairness in the workplace, need to be addressed to ensure everyone is treated equally.
Lyttle Law Firm, PLLC, based in Austin, specializes in immigration and family law. If you’re in need of sound legal advice, feel free to call us at (512) 215-5225.