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Pro-immigrant Rights Groups Let Down By Brown’s Vetoes PDF Print E-mail
Written by Alex Garcia Sun Contributing Writer   
Thursday, 04 October 2012 04:59

Brown Gives Green Light To Driver’s Licenses For Deferred Action Beneficiaries, Vetoes Trust Act And Domestic Workers’ Rights Bill

Julio Salgado


"I feel sad, betrayed," said Frida Hinojosa, a 54-year-old house cleaner living in Los Angeles, who said she "truly believed" Gov. Jerry Brown would sign Assembly Bill 889, the California Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights.

"I was so sure he would sign it. I never thought he would veto it," said Hinojosa, mother of four, who admitted she cried when she heard the governor's decision. As reported by the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol last week, Brown had until Sunday, Sept. 30, to sign or veto the bill. He decided to veto it.

The measure would have established basic workers' rights for live-in nannies, caretakers, and housekeepers, including break time, overtime pay, and vacation time.

For Hinojosa, approval of the bill would have meant California recognizes the work she and thousands of other nannies, housecleaners and domestic workers do for countless families in the state. It would also have meant an end to abuses these workers have been subjected to.

ALEX GARCIA/SFVS

Labor and pro-immigrant sympathizers showed their displeasure over Governor Brown’s veto of the Trust Act and the Domestic Worker’s Rights Bill during a demonstration outside his office in Los Angeles earlier this week.

Abuses such as the one Hinojosa endured several years ago, when the son of one of her employers moved a chair she was going to sit on, causing her to fall.

"I dislocated my arm and it still hurts to this day. When I told the lady what happened, she didn't believe me and said she didn't like liars and she basically told me not to come back," said Hinojosa, who's been cleaning homes for nearly 20 years.

"Others times, employers don't pay you or they use you for a number of hours but they don't pay you for them," she said. "We sometimes stay quiet for fear, especially when one doesn't have documents to be in this country."

Domestic Worker Helped Elect Brown She thought Brown would put an end to these abuses and recognize the value of these workers, since it was a domestic worker who tilted the 2010 state gubernatorial election in his favor.

Back then, housekeeper Nicky Diaz accused her former employer, Republican candidate Meg Whitman, of knowing she was in the country illegally yet keeping her on her payroll, until dismissing her coldheartedly because Whitman feared the press and public would find out.

The revelations were a blow to Whitman's public stance on immigration, and became a turning point in the state election. "He practically won the election because of a domestic worker," said Hinojosa, who feels Brown has turned his back on the immigrants and Latino community that supported him.

"I voted for him and encouraged others to vote for him because I thought he would finally grant us our basic rights," Hinojosa said. "I still can't understand why he vetoed the bill. It doesn't make any sense to me."

Immigrant rights organizations held a protest against the veto in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday, Oct. 2.

"Unfortunately, the leadership that domestic workers and immigrant families demonstrated this legislative year was not matched by our governor," lamented Angelica Salas, executive director for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA).

"Leadership takes courage. However, we will take his veto messages and use them to strengthen our campaigns in favor of immigrant families and workers. We have not given up our fight for justice and these vetoes will not stop our fight for worker and immigrant rights."

A Victory For Driver's License Bill Pro-immigrant groups did praise Brown for approving a bill allowing beneficiaries of President Obama's Deferred Action program to get driver's licenses, while he vetoed the TRUST Act, Domestic Workers' Rights Bill and Farm Workers bills.

"It is a victory for those who were brought here through no choice of their own, played by the rules, and are only asking to be included in and contribute to American society," stated Assemblymember Gil Cedillo (DLos Angeles), proponent of the driver's license bill.

"I wholeheartedly thank and congratulate Gov. Brown for signing this bill into law, making California the first state in the nation to grant driver's licenses to this worthy group of people," As many as 450,000 undocumented Californians could qualify for licenses under the new law.

Deferred Action benefits apply to immigrants between the ages of 15 and 31 who came to the United States before age 16, and have lived in this country continuously for the past five years. If they are granted Deferred Action, they receive a temporary work permit and are excluded from deportation proceedings.

ALEX GARCIA/SFVS

Frida Hinojosa, a housecleaner, said she can’t believe Governor Brown vetoed the Domestic Workers’ Rights Bill, especially after one of these workers helped him reach office in 2010 when housekeeper Nicky Diaz accused Brown’s contender, Republican Meg Whitman, of keeping her as an employee even though she knew about Diaz’ illegal status.

Deferred Action participants must be in school, have graduated from high school or obtained an equivalency certificate, or have been honorably discharged from the U.S. military. They cannot have committed a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more misdemeanors.

Governor Fails To Sign TRUST Act The Transparency and Responsibility Using State Tools Act, also known as the "Anti- Arizona Act," would have enabled local governments to exit the federal Secure Communities program.

The controversial program enables authorities to send the fingerprints of people accused of a crime to federal and international databases to their check immigration status – even before their case goes to court or they're convicted of a crime.

The Secure Communities program has resulted in thousands of deportations across the country, including 72,000 Californians, of which 70 percent have no criminal convictions or have committed only minor offenses, according to Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), the bill's sponsor. The legislation would have protected such undocumented immigrants from deportation, except for those who had committed violent or serious felonies.

Immigration advocates had hoped the bill would serve as a model for states across the country. "Californians don't want their local police and sheriff's deputies enforcing federal immigration law," said Jennie Pasquarella, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of California.

"Doing so makes victims and witnesses afraid to report crimes, wastes scarce taxpayer resources, and encourages racial profiling. We're sorry the governor missed an opportunity to chart a different course from states like Arizona and to preserve the traditional function of local law enforcement – working with communities to keep them safe."

Pablo Alvarado, head of the National Day Labor Organizing Network, spoke about the case of Jose Ucelo, a day laborer who was hired outside a Home Depot store in Anaheim earlier this year to work on a parking lot in Garden Grove. But after working all day for a contractor who promised to pay him $100 for his labor, the contractor denied him payment, called the police and accused him of robbing him.


Even though the accusation was later withdrawn, Ucelo was turned over to the Orange County Jail where, upon his booking, his fingerprints were sent to immigration authorities, as established by the Secure Communities program. An immigration hold was placed on him for being in the country illegally.

Ucelo, father of a 10-month-old baby, was freed after posting bail but now faces deportation.

"It's unacceptable to be deporting mothers, day laborers, people who sell tamales and have committed no major crimes," said Alvarado, who vowed that they would continue the fight to get rid of the Secure Communities program.

"By not signing the Trust Act, Governor Brown signed his place into the ranks of (Arizona Gov.) Jan Brewer and Sheriff (Joe) Arpaio. He let the president's Secure Communities mass deportation program go unchecked. And he missed an opportunity to make every Californian safer," Alvarado said.

In his veto message, Brown said he agreed with the spirit of the bill, which easily cleared the House and Senate in August, but had qualms with some of its language. Brown said he was concerned the bill would cover even those accused of serious crimes, such as drug trafficking, gang activity or child abuse.

Ammiano said he offered supplemental legislation addressing those concerns, but that the governor's office did not take him up on it.

Ammiano has already said he intends to modify the bill to satisfy the governor's concerns, and reintroduce it in next year's legislature. UFW "Appalled" By Farm Worker Bill Vetos Brown was also harshly criticized for his veto of two farm workers' heat protection bills.

The first was the Humane Treatment for Farm Workers Act, which would have made it a misdemeanor crime, punishable by jail time and fines, to not provide appropriate water or shade to workers laboring under high heat conditions. The governor also vetoed The Farm Worker Safety Act, which would have allowed workers to enforce the state's heat regulations by suing employers who repeatedly violate the law.

In a statement, United Farm Workers (UFW) officials said, "The UFW is appalled at the governor's decision to deny farm workers the basic legal tools to protect themselves from employers who intentionally put their lives at risk by refusing to provide them with adequate water and shade despite the dangerously high temperatures.

"By vetoing AB 2676, the governor continues the policy of giving animals more protections than those currently offered to farm workers," the statement said.

According to the UFW, preventable farm workers' deaths have continued despite since state-issued regulations in 2005 regarding the use of farm workers in extreme heat. State regulators are investigating two possible heat-related farm worker deaths that occurred this summer.

"It's outrageous when abuse of a farm animal is taken more seriously than abuse of a farm worker.

Gov. Brown let us down," stated Maria Elena Durazo, executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO.

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Last Updated on Thursday, 04 October 2012 17:53