California lawmaker offers to revise "anti-Arizona" immigration bill

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 01, 2012 9:13 PM
California lawmaker offers to revise "anti-Arizona" immigration bill

By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A California lawmaker offered on Monday to revise a proposed law to shield some illegal immigrants from federal status checks, a day after the state's Democratic governor vetoed the bill as "fatally flawed."

The bill as written would have barred local authorities from honoring federal detention requests on illegal immigrants, which may lead to deportation, unless those individuals were charged or convicted of a serious or violent felony.

Supporters of the measure said it would have served as a counterpoint for what they say is racial profiling inherent in an Arizona law that cracks down on illegal immigration that was allowed to stand by the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this summer.

But in his veto message, California Governor Jerry Brown said that, while he supports comprehensive immigration reform, the bill was "fatally flawed" because it could exempt individuals who had committed crimes such as child abuse, drug trafficking and selling weapons.

Democratic Assembly member Tom Ammiano, in a phone call with reporters on Monday, said he would be willing to revisit the list of crimes that could exempt some illegal immigrants from checks and plans to reintroduce similar legislation as early as January.

"Obviously we have it in our power to fix it," he said.

"Governors come and go, but this issue is more than a political issue. It is a movement... We're going to have success in this issue," he added.

While some Latino leaders have roundly criticized Brown for vetoing the bill, one political analyst said the fallout from Brown's decision was unlikely to lead to Democrats in California losing significant ground to Republicans with Latino voters.

Brown credited undocumented immigrants with playing a "major role in California's economy" in his veto message and said he believed the "significant flaws" in the bill could be fixed and the legislation brought back to him.

A representative for Brown did not return a call seeking comment on Monday.

The California legislation stems from unease among immigrant rights groups with an information-sharing program between federal and local law enforcement.

Had the bill been signed into law, California would have taken a stance in opposition not only to the legislation in Arizona but also similar bills in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana and South Carolina that have adopted stricter laws on immigration.

In a landmark case, the U.S. Supreme Court in June upheld Arizona's provision on immigration status checks by police. But it also struck down rules in the state's bill that would, among other things, ban illegal immigrants from soliciting work in public places.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Lisa Shumaker)

(This story has been corrected to add Brown's first name and title in fourth paragraph)