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New California Immigration Law Limits Detentions to Serious Crimes

Published on 10/10/2013 -


In a move that stirred a national controversy, the Los Angeles Police Department recently authorized its police force to make complex decisions about whether they could detain immigrants accused of crimes.

But a recent law passed by the state of California removes this controversial authority over immigration law, according to a report from the Sacramento Bee.

California Passes Immigration Law to Thwart Local Police

According to sources, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill this week that sets strict guidelines for when local law enforcement officials can detain immigrants, and when they must allow them to go.

Traditionally, immigration law has been under the jurisdiction of the federal government. And most immigration laws are still created at the federal law. But that didn’t stop local police from trying to exercise control over the process.

In recent years, state and municipal authorities took more control over the immigration process, as they were given some freedom to check the immigration status of people they detained for suspected crimes.

Under this system, however, there were a “number of individuals who detainers were being issued on for petty, low-level offenses, and for us that didn’t seem to strike us as the essence of why the detainer was being issued,” said Michel Moore, the assistant chief of police of the Los Angeles Police Department.

In response to this trend, the new bill passed by Gov. Brown sets strict limits on local police, and forbids them from detaining immigrants who are suspected of minor crimes simply because of their immigration status.

New Immigration Law Takes Power Away from Local Officials

While some critics of the law believe it unfairly limits the authority of local police officers, many observers, including the Los Angeles Police Department, are happy with the change.

The law “reinforces that local law enforcement can be looked upon by all communities as a trusted part of government that’s not going to concern itself with matters of immigration status,” said Moore.

The law also strengthens the idea that “a person’s alien status is not a matter for LAPD.” In addition to the new provisions limiting local police authority, Gov. Brown also signed a new law this week that would allow undocumented immigrants to gain attorney licenses in California, provided that they meet the necessary requirements.

In a press release drafted after the historic bills were signed, Gov. Brown praised his state’s initiative, and also rubbed a bit of sand in the eye of national legislators. “While Washington waffles on immigration, California’s forging ahead,” said one line in the brief statement. Indeed, Washington could take a lesson from California’s aggressive initiatives to protect immigrants.

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