California Gov. Jerry Brown on Sunday vetoed the TRUST Act, legislation that would have limited how local law enforcement implement Secure Communities, a controversial federal program through which almost 80,000 deportations have been conducted in the state.
In an eleventh hour decision, the governor said that the bill was "fatally flawed" because of the list of crimes in the bill was too narrow. The Governor pointed out that police would be barred from cooperating even when the person arrested has been convicted of certain crimes involving child abuse, drug trafficking, selling weapons and using children to sell drugs.
"I believe it is unwise to interfere with a sheriff's discretion to comply with a detainer issued for people with these kinds of troubling criminal records," the Democratic governor said in a signing statement.
Brown also recognized the "major" role immigrants play in California's economy and said immigration reform -- including a path to citizenship -- was "long overdue."
The decision comes amid growing national attention surrounding state efforts to enforce federal immigration law, especially after the Supreme Court's decision to partially uphold the controversial Arizona SB 1070 immigration law.
Civil rights and immigration advocates had pressured Brown to pass the legislation.
"By vetoing the TRUST Act Governor Brown has failed California's immigrant communities, imperiling civil rights and leaving us all less safe," said Pablo Alvarado, executive director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, in a statement.
Under the TRUST Act California would have modified how it complied with ICE detainers, a hold placed on an arrestee with a suspect immigration status. The TRUST Act would direct law enforcement to honor ICE hold requests only on arrestees with serious or violent felony convictions.
Community groups across the country have criticized Secure Communities for entangling minor or non-criminals in its net, undermining the immigrant community's trust and cooperation with police.
In an interview on Saturday, California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), who sponsored the bill, told ABC/Univision he was worried about the bill's passage, citing how Brown had previously vetoed a bill giving farmworkers standard overtime protections in the middle of the night earlier this month.
Law enforcement had mixed opinions on the bill.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca had voiced strong opposition to the act. He and others said they would continue to enforce federal policy regardless of the act.
"This makes them look really bad," said Ammiano. "They've made themselves into the enemy. And we're saying, 'We don't want you to be the enemy.'"
The governor said that the bill can be fixed and promised to work with the legislature on it.
This is the second version of the bill and the first to reach the governor's desk. The first version would have modified the agreement the state had with ICE to allow counties to opt out of Secure Communities. In August 2011, after the bill had reached the senate, ICE said it would no longer abide by those agreements, making the language in the bill irrelevant.