SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Another California bill seeking stronger protections for illegal immigrants is sailing through the legislature with little opposition.
This time, law enforcement is leading the charge to do something about a growing number of unreported crimes. AB493 would allow an illegal immigrant to report a crime without fear of deportation.
Douglas Lehrman has nearly four decades under his belt as an immigration attorney. But he says never before has he had more clients “living underground.”
“The person’s been a victim of a crime and hasn’t reported it because they’ve been afraid to have contact with the authorities,” he explained.
Lehrman is one of many California attorneys fighting to protect illegal immigrants who are victims or witnesses of crimes. And this is one case lawmakers say they could win.
“To hear law enforcement say look this will help us capture capture those criminals…” said Assemblyman Reggie-Jones (D-Los Angeles).
Assemblyman Reggie Jones- Sawyer says both law enforcement and the ACLU are on his side. It’s a rare partnership he says, lobbying for a bill that would make it safe for illegal immigrants to report a crime, without being reported to federal immigration agents.
Will it allow illegal immigrants with criminal backgrounds to fall through the cracks? He says, “No. If you’re a criminal and it does come up, you can be arrested.”
But not everyone is swayed.
“I have a big concern about state efforts to make if difficult for people to cooperate with the federal government, and with the federal government enforcement of immigration laws,” said Assemblyman Matthew Harper (R-Huntington Beach.)
Matthew Harper is the sole republican assemblyman who voted against the bill, along with a package of proposals that would offer immigrants legal help.
“Well one thing we’re certainly seeing is California trying to establish its own immigration policy,” he said.
It’s a national policy California has no formal role in playing.
For Lehrman, it’s a way to push back against the Trump administration’s effort to deport millions of undocumented immigrants, even those claiming to cooperate with law enforcement.
AB493 is one of several bills headed straight to the Senate in the coming weeks. Some are drafted with an “urgency clause,” which would allow the laws to take effect immediately, if signed by the Governor Brown.