SACRAMENTO -- Gov. Jerry Brown signed a new law that will allow hundreds of thousands of young illegal immigrants to obtain driver's licenses and vetoed another that would have restricted sheriffs from helping federal authorities detain undocumented Californians for potential deportation.
His actions, announced Sunday as the deadline neared to finish work on nearly 1,000 bills sent to him by the Legislature this year, followed an intense week of protests, prayer vigils and lobbying by immigrant advocacy groups.
The laws take effect Jan. 1.
The immigration bills sparked the most controversy.
The driver's license measure will make illegal immigrants eligible to drive legally in California if they qualify for a new federal work permit program.
That Obama administration protocol allows illegal immigrants who came to the United States before they were 16, and who are now 30 or younger and meet certain other criteria, to obtain work permits.
"Gov. Brown believes the federal government should pursue comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship," said Brown spokesman Gil Duran. "President Obama has recognized the unique status of these students, and making them eligible to apply for driver's licenses is an obvious next step."
Assemblyman Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles), the measure's author, had been crusading for such a law since a broader measure he pushed through the Legislature in 2003 prompted a voter backlash.
The earlier bill was signed into law by former Gov. Gray Davis, who was ousted from office soon afterward. Before it took effect, lawmakers repealed it.
The assemblyman had wider support for the latest measure, AB 2189, however, with backing from some GOP lawmakers.
"I'm proud the governor chose public safety over the politics of the day,'' Cedillo said.
The other closely watched immigration bill was known as the Trust Act.
It would have prohibited local law enforcement officers from cooperating with federal authorities to detain suspected illegal immigrants, unless they are charged with a serious or violent felony.
Some in law enforcement campaigned hard against the measure, AB 1081 by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco).
Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca said it conflicted with federal law and vowed to defy it.
The act is aimed at Secure Communities, a federal program that creates a pipeline from local jails to deportation.
In participating jurisdictions, the fingerprints of every person arrested and booked into local jails are run through federal databases.
Federal authorities flag suspected illegal immigrants, then request that police detain them for 48 hours, providing more time for a transfer to federal custody.