Gov. Jerry Brown may soon need to decide whether to sign a bill that would essentially make California a “sanctuary state.” The measure would ban state and local law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration authorities.
Brown will face strong pressure from his fellow Democrats to approve the ban. But the governor already has a clear record opposing it.
Legislative Democrats have repeatedly tried to ban California law enforcement agencies from cooperating with federal immigration authorities, except in cases involving serious or violent felonies.
“We called it the TRUST Act, and it was mostly aimed at the (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) program.”
Former Asm. Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) carried the bill – twice. That’s because the first time, the governor vetoed it.
“‘If you don’t want law enforcement to be entangled with ICE, we’ll agree,‘“ Ammiano recalls Brown‘s staff telling him at the time. “‘But you have to have these carve-outs of where there would be exceptions. And we felt that the carve-outs were too broad.“
In his veto message, Brown said the bill would have barred local cooperation with ICE even when someone was convicted of crimes like child abuse or drug trafficking. “I believe it's unwise,” the governor wrote, “to interfere with a sheriff's discretion to comply with a detainer issued for people with these kinds of troubling criminal records.”
The following year, “I reintroduced a bill,“ Ammiano says, “and we negotiated what carve-outs we could accept,” winning the governor's signature in 2013.
Last year, Democrats again sought a broad ban on cooperation. But that provision was cut from the bill before it reached the governor.
Then, there was an election. And now, California’s Senate leader has introduced a bill that would ban all communications with ICE – even for immigrants charged with serious or violent felonies. SB 54, by Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), has already passed its first committee hearing, much earlier than bills are typically heard in the firsty ear of a legislative session.
So what happens if that measure reaches Brown’s desk?
Cory Salzillo with the California State Sheriffs Association hopes the governor will stick to his original position – despite California’s political climate.
“Sheriffs are not seeking to be immigration police out in the field,“ Salzillo says. “They don’t have the resources or the inclination to be going out and acting as immigration police. But there certainly are situations in which there’s a person in sheriff’s custody in a jail, and if the federal government through ICE or another agency wants to know if that person is in custody, we think it’s important for public safety to be able to answer that question at a very basic level.“
Ammiano thinks the governor will change his mind.
“I would say, the political waters – I think it indicates that Jerry Brown should be sympathetic to this, without watering it down.”
In his State of the State address this year, the governor called out the TRUST Act by name and vowed to defend it. The question now is whether Brown believes that law will suffice.
His office declined comment.