Sacramento, CA – As the imposition of the scandal-plagued “Secure” Communities or S-Comm deportation program in Massachusetts and New York today spurs fresh controversy, California Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D-SF) formally introduced a revamped version of AB 1081, the TRUST Act, to reform California’s participation in the program.
The new incarnation of AB 1081, which captured national attention last year, formally appeared “in print” late yesterday and will pick up where the previous version left off, in the state Senate. The bill is expected to be heard in the Senate Public Safety committee next month. (Background information below.)
The new TRUST Act seeks to restore community trust in law enforcement and ease S-Comm’s unfair burden on local governments, who are pressured to hold for extra time even survivors of domestic violence for deportation. The bill comes as deportations through the program in California exceeded the grim figure of 70,330 as of March 31 of this year. Nearly seven in ten of those deported did not fall into Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE’s) most serious category.
In a statement, Assemblymember Ammiano commented:
“Despite promises of ‘reform,’ each month, the terrible toll this program is taking on our safety, on our local governments, and on our communities, continues to rise. In just four months S-Comm deportations in California shot up from 63,000 to 70,000. Behind each one of those numbers is a human being. How many more parents, workers, crime victims and witnesses will ICE tear from our communities? Turning police into immigration agents is at the heart of the hateful laws in Alabama, Arizona and elsewhere – and it’s time to say, “enough.” It’s got to stop. The new TRUST Act is a crucial step toward rebuilding trust between police and immigrant communities and restoring some balance to a completely broken system.
- Sets a clear, minimum standard for local governments not to submit to ICE’s requests to detain people for deportation unless the individual has a serious or violent felony conviction.
- Guards against profiling and wrongful detention of citizens and crime victims and witnesses. Localities that detain individuals with serious convictions for deportation would develop plans to ensure citizens are not subject to immigration holds, guard against profiling, and ensure crime victims and witnesses are not discouraged from reporting crimes
Despite the federal government’s attempt to force the state of California into participating into the sharing of fingerprints with immigration authorities through S-Comm, ICE’s “detainer” requests are clearly optional under federal law. Courts and ICE itself have confirmed this, and a number of jurisdictions, including Santa Clara County, Cook Co, and New York City have limited their responses to detainer requests. A similar proposal is advancing in Washington, DC.
A steady stream of disturbing revelations in recent months – including the mistaken detention of US Citizens in Los Angeles and elsewhere, and the deportation of the wife of a US citizen protesting an unfair foreclosure – have underscored the Department of Homeland Security’s continued failure to repair the deeply troubled program. The tragic scandal at Miramonte School earlier this year – during which parents said they were afraid to work with LA Sheriffs due to S-Comm – further highlights the program’s detrimental impact on public safety.
About the TRUST Act: Passed by both the California Assembly (47-26) and the Senate Public Safety Committee (5-2) in 2011, the bill originally sought to modify California’s agreement with the federal government over S-Comm to curb the program’s well-documented abuses. However, in a stunning display of bad faith, ICE shredded all state agreements last year but claimed states still needed to send fingerprints. ICE’s surprise maneuver spurred a months-long process of consultation with groups across the state, resulting in the focus on ICE’s burdensome “hold” requests.
How detainers work: ICE “holds” or detainers are optional requests, frequently triggered by S-Comm, that ICE sends to local jails to ask them to place detained community members into extended incarceration so that the individual can be picked up for deportation. Local jails bear the brunt of the costs of responding to ICE holds, including the additional length of time individuals are held beyond the point they would be released if not for the immigration hold. ICE holds have come under increased scrutiny in recent months with revelations that they have led to the needless prolonged detention of immigrant domestic violence survivors, street vendors arrested only for selling food without a permit, and even U.S. citizens, trapped in local jails for the sole purpose of feeding an out of control deportation machine.