CA’s Gov. Brown Signs Immigrant, Youth Bills
Protections for people who entered the country illegally but don’t have documentation and for LGBT foster youth are among the bills California Governor Jerry Brown recently signed into law. Most of the bills are effective January 1.
Among the pieces of legislation that Brown approved before the October 13 deadline was Assembly Bill 4, the Transparency and Responsibility Using State Tools Act - more commonly known as the TRUST Act.
The bill, authored by gay Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), addresses issues with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency’s Secure Communities program, widely known as S-Comm. According to Ammiano, S-Comm was promoted as a way to deport dangerous criminals, but most of the 100,000 Californians forced out of the country through the program didn’t meet that description.
"Some were even crime victims, leading members of some communities to avoid reporting crimes for fear of deportation," a news release from Ammiano said.
Carolina Morales is programs co-director at Community United Against Violence, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that’s been critical of S-Comm. She noted the city already has a similar ordinance.
"For people in San Francisco, the TRUST Act is more about continuing to feel like we’re not being punished for just being undocumented," said Morales in an interview.
Allan Martinez, a 47-year-old transgender man who lives in San Francisco but is originally from Mexico, has been afraid to call police for help in the past because of S-Comm. He didn’t report incidents like abuse from his ex-girlfriend and a little girl who was being mistreated by her parents.
Among other fears, Martinez, who doesn’t have legal documentation to be in the United States, said there was "the possibility of being deported." Martinez spoke to the Bay Area Reporter through Morales, who provided translation.
AB 4 prohibits law enforcement officials from detaining someone on an ICE hold after he becomes eligible for release from custody, unless that person’s been convicted of a serious or violent felony such as murder or rape.
"This bill caps a great year for California’s immigrant communities," Ammiano stated. "With the TRUST Act, Governor Brown is recognizing the importance of immigrants to the economy, culture and vitality of the entire state. I look forward to the nation as a whole adopting this stance."
Another Ammiano-authored bill that Brown signed into law is AB 868, which is meant to help LGBT youth who find themselves in the foster care system.
The bill requires the training necessary for court employees who work with LGBT youth to understand their experiences in the judicial system. It also requires cultural competency and sensitivity training related to providing adequate care for LGBT youth in the child welfare system.
Sherrie Wise, 52, said in an interview that the law would be helpful to people like her. Wise, who’s straight, is a court-appointed special advocate in Sacramento County.
In recent years, she’s worked with a 15-year-old transgender girl who’s transitioning.
Wise had been through a one-night class that included training related to LGBT youth in foster care, but she felt it didn’t adequately equip her for communicating with the girl. The girl had been rejected by her grandparents, and had been suspended from school for fighting, among other problems.
"Here she’s already been kicked around since she was little, and now she has so many obstacles. I don’t want to add to the problem. ... It was like walking in the dark," said Wise.
Scott, 38, the gay man who’s in the process of adopting the girl, said the new law should cut down on the time it takes for children and care workers to get oriented with each other and increase trust. Scott, who lives in a Sacramento suburb, didn’t want his last name published for fear of jeopardizing the adoption process.
AB 868 isn’t the only Ammiano bill addressing the needs of youth. AB 652, which the governor also approved, takes on the reporting of child abuse and neglect as they relate to homeless youth.
Teachers and other mandated reporters are required to report cases of known or suspected child abuse. AB 652 says that the condition of homelessness alone isn’t a basis for reporting abuse or neglect.
"This is important, because teens were staying away from shelters, health care and schools because they feared they would be reported to law enforcement or child welfare," a news release from Ammiano said.
The bill doesn’t prevent reporting instances where there’s reason to believe a child has been a victim of neglect or abuse.
Brown also signed into law AB 256, which was authored by Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens). The bill updates state anti-bullying law to allow school superintendents and principals to discipline students who use computers, smartphones, or social media to harass or threaten others on or off campus.
Another bill related to youth that Brown signed was gay state Senator Mark Leno’s (D-San Francisco) Senate Bill 274, which is meant to protect children who have more than two legal parents. The law allows courts to recognize the rights and responsibilities of each parent if recognizing only two parents would be detrimental to the child.
"It is critical that judges have the ability to recognize the roles of all parents so that no child has to endure separation from one of the adults he or she has always known as a parent," Leno said in a statement.
Brown also signed AB 362, which is meant to provide tax fairness for same-sex couples. The law, authored by Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) exempts from state income tax until 2019 any incremental increases in salary workers receive to compensate for additional federal income taxes that are incurred by the employee on employer-provided health-care benefits because, for federal income tax purposes, the same-sex spouse or domestic partner of the employee is not considered the spouse of the employee.
Ting’s bill follows the U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings in June that killed California’s same-sex marriage ban, Proposition 8, and struck down a key section of the anti-gay federal Defense of Marriage Act.