Wednesday, October 9, 2013

California Governor Brown Signs Sweeping Immigration Bill


October 9, 2013: Late last week, California governor Jerry Brown signed one of the most sweeping immigration bills in the nation's history, allowing undocumented immigrants to become lawyers, prohibiting law enforcement from "detaining" people charged with minor crimes (commonly known as ICE holds), and making it a crime for employers to threaten to report someone's immigration status. And just the previous day, the governor also signed a law allowing undocumented workers to get their California drivers licenses. 

"While Washington waffles on immigration, California's forging ahead" Brown stated in response to the federal government's lackluster progress on comprehensive immigration reform.

As expected, critics of the new laws were quick to point out that the bill would send the wrong signals to those seeking to enter the country unlawfully. "It's sending the wrong message to the world" said Robin Hvidston, 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."

Immigrant rights activists saw things differently however. "Today marks the dawn of a new era in California's immigrant communities", said Reshma Shamasunder, Executive Director of California Immigrant Policy Center.

Among other provisions of the law are new protections for those that use the services of immigration law professionals in gaining legal status, a measure that was seen by some immigration attorneys as actually hindering immigrant rights by placing more burdens on practitioners.

But the major impact of the law will be felt by those who come into contact with law enforcement. Under the federal government's "Secure Communities" program, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) "request" that local law enforcement "hold" undocumented immigrants (prior to their release) for up to 48 hours so ICE can make a determination on whether to take the person into federal immigration custody. But the "Secure Communities" program had the effect of deporting many low-level criminal offenders, much to the anguish of immigrant rights activists. From now on however, only those individuals charged with violent felonies or certain crimes would be subjected to an ICE hold.

Stay tuned to this blog to see how the law plays out and to find out the latest on comprehensive immigration reform. And if you need to speak to an experienced and trusted Orange County immigration attorney, please visit www.kpimmigrationlaw.com or call 949-440-3240.