Undocumented immigrants scored another win in California last week when Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill protecting them from deportation when they are arrested for minor crimes. Before the bill, undocumented immigrants were subject to a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement hold and could not simply be released from jail.
Brown rejected a similar bill last year, citing crucial changes to the scope of the “Trust Act” as his reasoning. The revised bill exposes undocumented immigrants charged with serious felonies to deportation. Other crimes added to the “unacceptable” list include: child abuse, gang-related crimes, drug trafficking, weapon sales, using children to sell drugs, and aggravated federal felonies.
This action, along with Brown’s recent ratification of a bill allowing illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses, evinces a major change in Californians’ attitude towards the undocumented. Less than 20 years ago, citizens voted to disallow the immigrants from collecting public benefits (a measure later found to be unconstitutional.)
Critics of the bill believe that promptly deporting those suspected of smaller crimes may prevent the more serious crimes committed by the same individuals in the future. Such is the case with Mario Chavez who was arrested and subsequently released. A month later he is suspected of stabbing his wife to death.
There are about 2.7 million undocumented immigrants in California and proponents of the bill believe it is a positive step towards national security. Governor Brown says the bill, “protects public safety, and yet also protects immigrants who are basically living upright lives and working hard for the people.”