August 28, 2012 – Today, a broad coalition of human rights advocates and legal experts condemned a statement made by the office of Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca Friday that the sheriff would defy the TRUST Act (AB 1081-Ammiano) if enacted, despite the fact that the bill is legally sound, and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) “hold” requests the bill limits are voluntary. Other Sheriffs, including Sheriff Freitas of Sonoma, Sheriff Gore of San Diego, and Sheriff Sniff of Riverside also suggested in comments to the Los Angeles times that they may take similar actions.
In a joint statement, the groups, ACLU of California, Asian Law Caucus, California Immigrant Policy Center, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, DREAM Alliance of Sonoma County, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, MALDEF, San Francisco Organizing Project, and National Day Laborer Organizing Network, remarked:
And it is urgent for California to take action. Each month, thousands of parents, workers, and other Californians who aspire to be citizens are torn from their families due to the most trivial of arrests. They are trapped in our local jails for days, weeks or months after they would otherwise be released. This rogue group of Sheriffs- a vocal minority within the law enforcement community- falsely claims they have no discretion to stop these painful and costly practices. They are wrong, and we are only left to speculate why they have pledged to defy California lawmakers.
There is too much at stake for California to allow them to poison the waters. This illogical opposition proves the need for Governor Brown to sign the TRUST Act and return the state’s participation in the “Secure Communities” program back to its original intent.
Additional comments from prominent experts:
Thomas A. Saenz, President and General Counsel, MALDEF: ”Any sheriff who fails to exercise discretion with respect to matters that are discretionary under the law engages in an ongoing dereliction of duty. Treating ICE detainer requests as mandates is simply a failure to engage in the discretionary decisionmaking that is expected of government leaders. It is far better for the state to establish policy on that discretion through the TRUST Act than for local law enforcement to be embroiled in individual immigration enforcement decisions. Thus, while avoiding decisionmaking in this area may be desirable for sheriffs, that is only possible with state legislation. Under current law without the TRUST Act, these sheriffs are harming the community and neglecting their responsibilities by treating as mandatory what is legally discretionary. They are also exposing themselves to possible legal action and liability.”
Hector Villagra, Executive Director, ACLU of Southern California “Secure Communities has shattered the relationship between law enforcement and the communities it’s supposed to protect. The TRUST Act restores that bond by stating clearly when local law enforcement should help with immigration enforcement – in cases of serious crimes – and when it shouldn’t. Sheriff Baca’s statements show ignorance both of how the TRUST Act works, and the limits of his own power.”
Background: The TRUST Act has captured national attention as a legally permissible alternative to neighboring Arizona’s extreme anti-immigrant measure, SB 1070. The bill would save local resources and rebuild community confidence in law enforcement by limiting limit unfair detentions for deportation purposes in local jails. Specifically, local law enforcement could only submit to burdensome – and optional – requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to detain individuals for extra time, at local expense, for deportation, if the individual has been charged or convicted of a serious or violent felony. That such requests are NOT mandatory is well established by the courts and federal regulations themselves.