California’s Legislature is poised to become the first in the nation to pass an “anti-Arizona” law instructing police to release illegal immigrants instead of handing them over to the federal government if they haven’t committed serious crimes.
The law could put a Democratic state at odds with a Democratic president whose administration has counted on local-federal police partnerships to find and deport illegal immigrants with criminal records.
“We aren’t usurping anything. It’s a states’ rights issue,” said Democratic Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, the sponsor of the bill that passed the state Senate in a 21-13 vote Thursday.
Legal experts saw the measure as a reaction to a federal immigration enforcement program, Secure Communities, forced upon all of California’s counties two years ago.
Jerry Brown, now governor, as state attorney general signed the pact with the Obama administration allowing federal immigration agents through the fingerprints-sharing Secure Communities program to track down and pick up every deportable immigrant arrested by local police in the state. Ammiano’s law tries to extricate California from that dragnet.
Ammiano’s “Trust Act” would prohibit police and sheriff’s departments from holding immigrants if they are eligible for release from criminal custody.