California Gov. Jerry Brown signed eight bills Saturday, including one that prevents lengthy detention for undocumented immigrants who commit minor crimes.
Under that law, called the Trust Act, illegal immigrants have to be charged with or convicted of a serious offense to warrant a 48-hour hold and transfer to federal immigration authorities for possible deportation.
On Thursday, Brown also approved a measure allowing immigrants in the country illegally to receive California driver’s licenses.
“While Washington waffles on immigration, California’s forging ahead,” he said. “I’m not waiting.”
According to the Los Angeles Times, other bills signed Saturday will allow people in the country illegally to be licensed as lawyers, impose restrictions on those who charge a fee to help immigrants gain legal status, and make it a crime for employers to “induce fear” by threatening to report someone’s immigration status.
Immigrant-rights activists hailed Brown’s actions.
Angela Chan of the Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Asian Law Caucus in San Francisco said the signing of the statewide law is “more than symbolic.”
She predicted it would prevent the detention of up to 20,000 immigrants a year by federal authorities, mostly in rural parts of the state.
The California Immigrant Policy Center declared 2013 the “year of the immigrant” in California.
“Today (Saturday) marks the dawn of a new era in California’s immigrant communities,” said Reshma Shamasunder, the center’s executive director.
In an editorial, the New York Times said:
If the goal is to lessen the problems caused when a huge population lives outside the law, while protecting civil rights and public safety, then California — home to an estimated 2.5 million undocumented immigrants — is setting a good example…Together the bills put California far on the leading edge of expanding immigrant rights while finding humane, sensible solutions to a problem Washington refuses to solve.
Some supporters of strict enforcement of immigration laws said Brown’s bill signings will be devastating for California.
“It’s sending the wrong message to the world,” said Robin Hvidston of Claremont, executive director of We the People Rising. “This is a message to the global community to come to the state of California illegally and you will get documentation and protection.”
The bill is opposed by the California State Sheriffs Association and the California District Attorneys Association.
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