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Activists protest sheriffs' group in push for anti-deportation bill

September 18, 2013|By Melanie Mason
  • Advocates rally in front of the Sacramento headquarters of the California State Sheriffs' Assn. on Wednesday in favor of the Trust Act. The anti-deportation measure, which passed the Legislature last week, now awaits Gov. Jerry Brown's signature.
Advocates rally in front of the Sacramento headquarters of the California… (Melanie Mason / Los Angeles…)

SACRAMENTO -- Advocates of an immigration policy overhaul are continuing their push for an anti-deportation measure known as the Trust Act as they wait to see if Gov. Jerry Brown signs the proposal into law.

Around two dozen protesters with signs and bullhorns convened Wednesday outside the headquarters of the California State Sheriffs' Assn., calling on the group to drop its opposition to the bill. A handful of protesters also staged a sit-in inside the building. 

The measure, which passed the Legislature last week, would limit state and local law enforcement's cooperation with federal immigration authorities. It would restrict officers' ability to hold for possible deportation anyone arrested for minor offenses.

The protest was organized by the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance. Alessandro Negrete, the group's statewide coordinator, said the sheriffs' group's president, Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern, "has been the biggest opponent" of the Trust Act.

"We're not asking for criminals to be let go. We're asking to let us live our daily lives without fear of being deported," said Negrete, who is from Los Angeles. 

A spokeswoman for the sheriffs' association did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday afternoon.

Ahern  has said that local sheriffs should defer to federal authorities on immigration matters.

Brown vetoed a version of the measure last year, citing safety concerns. This year's bill, by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), would allow law enforcement to detain people convicted of felonies or certain violent misdemeanors.

State Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris told law enforcement agencies throughout the state last year that complying with detention requests from federal officials was optional. Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca subsequently said he would not detain people without significant criminal records.

One demonstrator, Laura Lopez of Napa, said although Harris gave law enforcement discretion over cooperating with federal immigration authorities, "there's nothing that explicitly tells them not to."

The bill, AB 4, "makes sure they are all on the same page," Lopez said.

Lopez said she feared last-minute lobbying from the sheriffs' group could convince Brown to veto the measure.

"They are a heavy force. They're in all of our counties," Lopez said. Wednesday's demonstration, she said, is meant to send a message to the sheriffs' group: "Get out of the way."


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