The enactment of the state law would have probably led to a confrontation in court with the Justice Department, since it established state regulation of a federal program, Secure Communities. The governor apparently did not understand that this was a fair battle, one worth fighting.
From the beginning, the federal program-intended to detain and deport dangerous undocumented immigrants-was disorganized and confusing about aspects of its implementation and rules establishing the duties and responsibilities of cities, counties and states.
The situation worsened when some law enforcement agencies interpreted the program strictly, contradicting the idea of focusing on the most dangerous individuals, and wasted time and resources on irrelevant cases. For example, it is unjustifiable that the program was used to detain an elderly street vendor.
In this regard, we are concerned about the governor putting his trust (in his veto message) on a sheriff's discretion to enforce this program.
It has been documented that several local officers have overreached their authority when they were empowered to act as immigration agents in a federal program, as happened with 287(g) and is now happening with Secure Communities.
This concerns us even more in Los Angeles, where the Sheriff's Department has a serious leadership problem that has led to numerous documented cases of prisoner abuse. Ironically, Sheriff Lee Baca was the one who publicly warned he would ignore the TRUST Act if it became law.
Separately, the governor based his veto mainly on the supposed poor drafting of the bill. He argued that more crimes need to be codified; that is why he is endangering public safety. In reality, what endangers it is the overzealousness of the authorities, which makes victims fear deportation if they report crimes. We hope there is an effort to draft a bill the governor considers suitable.
However, we think Brown missed the chance to do the right thing, to leave a legacy of reason and humanity at a time anti-immigrant fervor has spread to several regions of the country. It was time to send a message that California is different, but he did not. He chose not to fight against the opposition of some law enforcement agencies or confront the Obama administration. Brown's veto is a great disappointment.