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This November, California voters have an opportunity to reform California’s 18-year-old “three-strikes” law through voting in support of Proposition 36. Our three strikes law, which is the toughest in the country, allows courts to sentence individuals to 25 years to life in prison if an individual is found to have committed a third felony – no matter how minor – if they have two prior serious or violent criminal convictions.
Prop 36 would alter a heavily criticized provision in the three strikes law that has produced unreasonable outcomes, and resulted in unnecessary costs to the state. Under this initiative, individuals whose third conviction is a non-violent, non-serious offense would not qualify for a third strike, with some exceptions. The exceptions are that Prop 36 would not allow anyone with a prior conviction for rape, murder, child molestation or other egregious crimes to appeal their life terms. This measure applies retroactively, meaning that those currently serving three strikes law terms can file a motion in court to reconsider their sentences if they qualify.
Inconsistencies in Sentencing
Because the current three strikes law does not require a serious or violent conviction for the third strike, there have been widely publicized cases of individuals serving 25 years to life sentences that are disproportionate to the crime committed. For instance, Shane Taylor in Tulare County is serving 25 years to life in prison for possessing a small amount of methamphetamine, which qualified as a third strike because he had two previous burglary convictions. There is also the well known case of Jerry Dewayne Williams who was sentenced to 25 years, soon after the three strikes law was implemented, for stealing a slice of extra large pepperoni pizza from a group of children in Redondo Beach.
Public Safety Impact and Cost Savings
Individuals whose third strike was a nonviolent offense pose a very low recidivism rate. As explained by Mike Romano, a Stanford University law professor, to the San Francisco Chronicle, statistics show that only 4 percent of individuals serving life sentences for a nonviolent, third strike offense qualify as high risk for committing a violent crime, compared with 20 percent of the total prison population.
Prop 36 also will reduce our overcrowded prison population and thereby result in significant savings to the state. Under this bill, an estimated 1 in 3, or 3,000 of the 8,873 prisoners, serving 25-years-to-life terms as of June 2012, can qualify for resentencing hearings. The Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates that Proposition 36 could result in a savings of between $70 million to $90 million a year due to the decreased prison costs.
Shift from Overreliance on Prisons
For the past three decades, if California voters are given a choice between funneling more people into our prison system versus less, the majority often check the box for more. However, what we have come to learn the hard way is that prisons do not solve our societal problems of crime, poverty, addiction, trauma, mental illness, and unequal access to education and jobs. This may explain why for the first time in decades, polls show that a growing majority of voters support Prop 36.
As prison abolitionist Angela Davis has explained, prisons do not disappear our problems. Rather, they drain our resources and energies away from education and social programs in the pursuit of a false promise of a quick fix. It’s time to take a step away from our overreliance on prisons and toward the more difficult, yet rewarding task, of addressing our societal problems head on through crafting solutions that address the root causes.
Originally published in Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area (AABA) Newsletter, Sept/Oct 2012 Edition
“Did you register to vote?” a female student greeted me with a big smile as I walked through the center of Sproul Hall on campus.
“No,” I quickly responded as I smiled back. “Would you like to register?” she said. “It takes only about several minutes. I can help you,“ she insisted. “Sorry, I’m late to class,” I half-lied.
She probably thought that I was lazy, apathetic or ignorant. But that’s the farthest from the truth. I wish I could tell her that I wanted to vote ever since I turned 18. And, I wish I could have told her the reason I cannot vote – because I am undocumented.
Ever since I moved to this country from South Korea at the age of 11, I grew up just like many other American students. I attended local public schools, learned English, joined sports teams, and was involved in many different student organizations.
I eventually made my way to UC Berkeley after transferring from Laney College. In college, I studied political science and became increasingly involved in student government – first as the student president at Laney, and later as a student senator at Cal.
In school, there were days when I spent endless hours at the library, studying, researching, and learning about politics by reading a variety of magazines, online articles, and newspapers. I have political discussions with my friends and instructors in class, as well as in student organization meetings, and even during lunches and dinners. Sometimes I have had intense debates during discussions, but I have always appreciated these moments because it helped me develop a broader understanding of political system.
I have even applied the political knowledge that I learned in school to the real world, and took direct action to make changes.
For example, when I was an Associated Students of University of California (ASUC) Senator, I incorporated my knowledge and skills that I learned from school to help manage and balance the ASUC’s $1.7 million budget, advocate for diverse issues related to healthcare, affordable education, and academic services along with 19 other elected student Senators. As a Senator, I had the privileged opportunity to vote and exercise my right on campus to make my voice heard. It was truly an honor.
Though I am assimilated to American culture, our society does not allow me to have a voice in the political system. Outside of the university, I am restricted from running for any higher-level political office, with some exceptions such as commissions, the school board and a few others.
Even after I graduate from the top public university with a degree in political science, I cannot participate in the voting process. I am just one person, but there are approximately 2.1 million DREAM Act eligible students who have earned or are pursuing a college degree in the U.S. but cannot exercise the right to vote. In addition, another 10 million undocumented people are barred from voting.
Some may argue that we do not deserve to vote because we are undocumented. This may sound logically reasonable, but it goes far beyond obtaining a U.S. citizenship. Whether documented or undocumented, there were times when African Americans, women, and other underrepresented communities did not have the right to vote.
Even today, many people are having difficult time to vote because of restricted laws to purposely prevent them to have the right to vote. For example, Tennessee voter ID law would restrict people from participating in voting process because significant proportions of underrepresented communities do not possess government-issued photo identification, which means minorities and low-income people could be further disenfranchised by this law. Clearly our current voting process is flawed. Thus, policy makers and elected officials should encourage as many people in this country to participate in the voting process as they can, instead of punishing them by creating discriminatory laws against underrepresented communities.
The November presidential election is just around the corner. Though I am unable to vote, I encourage others to vote in this critical election. Voting is a basic right, a civic duty, and a responsibility as citizens in this country – and we should not take it for granted.
You should vote because there are millions of undocumented immigrants like me who want to vote but unable to do so because of their immigration status.
You should vote because people fought, and died for, the right to vote in this country.
You should vote because there are many countries where people are still fighting and sacrificing their lives to have the right to vote.
You should vote because your voice matters. If you do not vote, interest groups and lobbyists can take advantage and influence policymaking process to benefit for their own interests.
You should vote because you can hold elected officials accountable and responsible representatives as they were elected to do.
Your vote matters, your vote counts, your vote can change a person’s life.
Immigration is one of the most important issues in the presidential election this year. Both candidates, Barrack Obama and Mitt Romney, have different approaches and visions to solve our broken immigration system. The question then becomes, which candidate is a better choice to fix our broken immigration system? The answer is quite simple. In the context of the immigration issue, neither President Obama nor Governor Romney is the best choice to lead our nation. Here’s why.
During the 2008 presidential election campaign, Democratic Party candidate Obama promised to introduce and pass comprehensive immigration reform by the end of his first term in office. However, as president, he did not introduce such a bill. He also promised to pass different legislation such as the DREAM Act. Four years later, he still has not delivered his promises.
Even worse, President Obama has deported about 1.4 million undocumented immigrants, tearing apart families and hurting innocent people. This increase in deportations was a result of notorious programs like “Secure Communities,” which requires the sharing of fingerprints at the point of booking by local or state law enforcement with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Though the “Secure Communities” program was designed to target the most dangerous criminals to be removed from this country, about 70% of the deported are non-criminals or individuals who committed only minor crimes. Furthermore, some individual police officers abuse their powers through racial profiling by falsely arresting or overcharging undocumented immigrants, and sometimes U.S. citizens, who would then be deported.
To be fair, President Obama made an announcement on June 15, 2012, to stop deportation and provide work permits to a select group of DREAMers who meet requirements under a new immigration policy, known as Deferred Action for Childhood arrivals (DACA). Though this policy would benefit thousands of young DREAMers, President Obama’s actions were largely motivated by political incentives. President Obama could have introduced DACA in his first term of presidency, but he waited until the election year. That’s not the type of leadership that we want from the president.
Mitt Romney, on the other hand, lacks clarity on immigration issues. As Romney is famously known for flip-flopping on policy issues, he surely flip-flops on immigration policy as well. First, Romney said he would veto the DREAM Act during the primary election. But once he got nominated as a Republican candidate, he said he would support a partial component of the DREAM Act, which allows certain individuals to pathway to legalizations if they serve in the military. This is just one of many examples from Romney’s ambiguous stance on immigration policy issues. Sadly, this would only make him an untrustworthy candidate.
Furthermore, Romney embraces the nation’s toughest immigration law, Arizona’s SB1070. SB1070 is a controversial law because it gives tremendous power and authority to state police officers to ask about immigration status of any persons if they have a reasonable suspicion that the individual is an undocumented immigrant. In other words, state police officers are trained to be Immigration Custom Enforcement (ICE) agents to detain and deport immigrants. Similar to the “Secure Communities” program, SB1070 results in racial profiling and discrimination against certain targeted individual groups. Someone who advocates for this policy would make our immigration system move backward, not forward.
Worst of all, Romney would address “illegal” immigration problem by self-deportation. During a debate in the primaries, he stated, “…The answer is self deportation, which is people decide they can do better by going because they can’t find work here because they don’t have legal documentation to allow them to work here.” Simply by looking at his stance on immigration, it is quite clear that he does not understand immigration issues nor does his statement exhibit empathy for the experiences of hard-working immigrants.
Clearly both candidates are not the best choice to fix our broken immigration system. But either way, we have to choose a president this upcoming November. Though electing the “right” president is important, the most important part of the democratic process is active engagement from the people. That’s why we need to continue to organize, mobilize, and take collective actions to make our voices heard, and send a clear message that we want fair and humane comprehensive immigration reform. With our collective voice and effort as a movement, no matter who gets elected, we can work with the President to solve our immigration system.
Pledges to Break ICE’s Hold on California and Beyond
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
September 30, 2012
Angela Chan, Senior Staff Attorney
SAN FRANCISCO - The Asian Law Caucus expresses deep disappointment in Governor Brown’s veto of the TRUST Act (AB 1081). Angela Chan, senior staff attorney, issues the following statement:
“After passing the legislature with strong support, the TRUST Act was posed to make California the first state in the country to adopt a policy that disentangled local police from burdensome immigration enforcement. Rather than take bold leadership to protect Californians and save our limited local resources, Governor Brown has squandered an opportunity to restore trust between immigrant communities and local law enforcement.
Almost 80,000 California residents have been deported thus far as a result of the runaway train known as ICE’s Secure Communities Program (S-Comm). We hold Governor Brown responsible for each and every domestic violence victim, food vendor, and contributing member of California deported because of his failure to do the right thing. We know that thousands more will be deported because his veto. This injustice will spur us to ramp up our efforts to break ICE’s hold on our local law enforcement.
We would like to thank the over 100 civil rights and community-based organizations, courageous police chiefs and sheriffs, 22 members of the California Congressional delegation, and inspiring faith leaders who made it possible for the bill to get to the Governor Brown’s desk. And we pledge to continue to work with you to win reforms that keep immigrant families together.”
The TRUST Act was authored by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, and co-sponsored by the Asian Law Caucus, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, the California Immigrant Policy Center, and the ACLU of California who worked with a coalition of community organizations from around the state.
Congressional leaders Endorse Bill that Would Set California Apart from Arizona-Style Enforcement
Today, 22 members of the California Democratic Congressional Delegation, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-SF) and Zoe Lofgren (D – San Jose), Ranking Member of the House’s immigration subcommittee, announced their support for the TRUST Act (AB 1081) in a letter to Governor Brown asking him to sign the bill into law.
The letter states that “the measure is designed to enhance public safety and protect civil liberties, while also promoting fiscal responsibility at the state and local level” and also strongly affirms: “There should be no doubt that California has the legal authority to enact the TRUST Act and set sensible limits on the manner in which local law enforcement officials respond to immigration detainers.”
Law enforcement support for the TRUST Act has also continued to grow, with Yolo County Sheriff Ed Prieto and East Palo Alto Police Chief Ronald Davis recently joining the Sheriff of Santa Clara County and the Chiefs of San Francisco, Oakland, National City, and Palo Alto in supporting the bill.
The bill’s author, Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D-SF) commented: “I thank Congresswoman Pelosi and the other California representatives for their support at this critical time for the TRUST Act. Having them stand with us is a powerful statement that we are headed in the right direction, and that our opponents’ claims are based on a misunderstanding of federal law. I’m glad our members of Congress agree it’s crucial for California to have a statewide response to these burdensome requests.”
Meanwhile, the Chicago City Council approved a policy similar to the TRUST Act yesterday, supported by Mayor Rahm Emmanuel :http://blogs.suntimes.com/politics/2012/09/fspielmansuntimescom_undocumented_immigrants_who_witness.html
The Congressional letter also comes shortly after The American Immigration Lawyers’ Association (AILA) published a document offering thorough legal analysis that served as the basis for their support of the bill. A copy of the AILA letter can be found here: http://www.aila.org/content/default.aspx?docid=41292
“There is a strong consensus emerging in favor of this legislation,” added Chris Newman, Legal Director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. He continued, “The few Sheriffs who have opposed the TRUST Act frankly prove the need for the bill by demonstrating their fundamental misunderstanding about the law and their obstinate unwillingness to join the rest of the state in an ernest policy discussion about how to reform the broken status quo.”
List of signers on today’s letter:
Advocates condemn some Sheriffs’ profound distortion of immigration law; CA can’t afford to let minority of officials “go rogue” on TRUST ActAugust 28, 2012
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.
Sacramento – The California Assembly passed AB 1081, the TRUST Act, 48-26 on concurrence today, sending the measure to the Governor for his signature. The Governor has until September 30 to sign the bill.
“This is a bill that speaks to humanity,” said Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, the bill’s author. “It prevents unjust treatment of productive Californians, while allowing local law enforcement to continue to focus on dangerous criminals. It will restore trust to people who have been subjected to the excesses of federal immigration authorities.”
“More than that, however, it restores California to the Secure Communities agreement that Gov. Jerry Brown signed when he was Attorney General. That agreement was to enable federal immigration authorities to focus on the dangerous people, not on the tamale vendors and innocent California workers. The votes in the Legislature represent the growing support for the TRUST Act among all Californians and should encourage the Governor to sign this and make it law.”
Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez was joined by Assemblymembers Luis A. Alejo, Norma Torres, Das Williams, Gilbert Cedillo and Charles Calderon in speaking from the floor in support of the bill.
“I am proud to support Assemblymember Ammiano’s efforts to ensure every person, regardless of their immigration status, receive just treatment by law enforcement officials,” Speaker John A. Pérez said, after the vote. “We clearly need comprehensive immigration reform from the federal government, but in the meantime, we need to ensure that the men and women who are working in California and contributing to our economy are treated with dignity and respect by law enforcement, and I am proud to support Mr. Ammiano’s efforts on this important issue.”
“This bill will restore trust among community members and law enforcement officials,” said Senator Kevin de Leόn, principal co-author. “And it is precisely this trust that will strengthen the safety in our communities.”
AB 1081, also known as the TRUST ACT and sometimes as the anti-Arizona bill, would save local resources and aid community policing by curtailing excess use of local jails for civil immigration enforcement. Recent reports estimate the cost of immigration holds is as much as $65 million a year in California.
Under TRUST, local law enforcement would have clear guidelines on when not to submit to immigration holds from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), while still allowing holds for those convicted of serious or violent felonies.
“With the passage of AB 1081, California has taken a major step toward ensuring that immigrant communities are able to continue to go about their normal lives without fear of being wrongfully detained for their immigration status,” said Assemblymember Mike Eng.
“The Trust Act will help ensure that innocent families are not split apart, and yet allows county jails to detain those who commit the most serious crimes,” said Assemblymember Luis A. Alejo. “In California, the vast majority of persons deported so far under the Secure Communities federal program have been those who no criminal charges or with minor offenses. AB 1081 is about keeping families together and amending the law to do what it was originally intended for.”
“The Trust Act sends the message that California will not tolerate the immigration abuses that have engendered fear and mistrust among families and individuals caught in the crosshairs of a broken immigration system,” said Assemblymember Nancy Skinner.
“I am proud to co-author AB 1081 and very pleased to see the measure heading to the Governor,” said Sen. Leland Yee. “The TRUST Act helps restore dignity to many people in our communities and will help alleviate some of the negative impacts they face as a result of poor federal immigration policies.”
Amendments were made to the bill in the Senate. The changes remove a requirement for counties to develop a specific plan to guard against racial profiling and other excesses. This was done to address concerns expressed by the state Sheriffs’ Association. The changes give additional discretion to local authorities, enabling them to submit to holds those who have been formally charged with a serious or violent felony.
It is referred to as the anti-Arizona, because, unlike Arizona law, it relieves the burden on local law enforcement to act on behalf of immigration authorities. The TRUST Act measure seeks to restore trust lost under the federal S-Comm program. Under S-Comm, ICE figures show, tens of thousands of Californians have been deported, even when they have not been convicted of a serious crime – sometimes when they have committed no crime or been victims of crimes.
The use of holds against productive Californians has, at times, led to hesitation to report crimes by those who fear deportation. As a result, the bill has had strong support – not just from rights organizations, but from a number of local police chiefs and mayors in California cities. Although the Sheriffs Association opposed the bill, even that group was not unified, as Ammiano pointed out during debate, mentioning support for the bill from the Sheriff of Santa Clara County.
Ammiano expressed thanks to those who spoke on the bill’s behalf, and to co-authors. Sen. Kevin de León was principal co-author. Other co-authors were Assembly Members, Luis A. Alejo, Susan A. Bonilla, Gilbert Cedillo, Mike Eng, William W. Monning, V. Manuel Pérez, Nancy Skinner and Mariko Yamada. They were joined by Senators Ron Calderon, Loni Hancock and Leland Yee.
The bill’s sponsors were the Asian Law Caucus, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, and the California Immigrant Policy Center.
The bill is supported by the police chiefs of Oakland and Palo Alto, numerous mayors, and over a 100 civil rights and community-based organizations. In recent weeks, the TRUST Act has gained the support of the California State Democratic Party and various cities and local government leaders. Additionally, the highest governing body of the national Episcopal Church recently called for the halt of the “Secure” Communities Program.
SACRAMENTO – Today, the State Senate approved AB 1081 (Ammiano), California’s TRUST Act, by a vote of 21-13. Floor manager Senator Kevin de Leόn (D – Los Angeles) presented the bill on the Senate floor.
The TRUST Act would create a national model to counter the racial profiling inherent in the one section of Arizona’s anti-immigrant law which the Supreme Court did not strike down last week. Section 2b of Arizona’s SB 1070 requires police to investigate immigration status based on ‘reasonable suspicion,’ while the TRUST Act would create plans to guard against racial profiling.
“Today’s vote signals to the nation that California cannot afford to be another Arizona,” said Ammiano. “The bill also limits unjust and onerous detentions for deportation in local jails of community members who do not pose a threat to public safety” he added.
The TRUST Act was originally drafted as a response to the federal “Secure” Communities or S-Comm deportation program which was described as a parallel to SB1070 sec2b in the Supreme Court case and has been responsible for deporting over 72,000 Californians. 7 in 10 of those deported under S-Comm in the state were deported with either no conviction or for minor offenses. In the worst instances, S-Comm is responsible for placing victims of domestic violence in deportation proceedings and deterring parents from reporting crimes committed against their children.
“We have made key progress today,” said Senator Kevin de Leόn. “This important measure is crucial to keep our communities safe. By promoting trust between immigrants and local law enforcement we ensure that victims of domestic violence and other crimes are not afraid to seek justice.”
Specifically, the TRUST Act sets a clear, minimum standard for local governments not to submit to burdensome requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to detain people for deportation unless the individual has a serious or violent felony conviction and develops protections to monitor and guard against profiling in the state.
The bill has won the support of the California Catholic Conference, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the Police Chiefs of Oakland and Palo Alto, and scores of local officials and community organizations.
It will next come back to the State Assembly for one concurrence vote following summer recess, before heading down to the Governor. Communities and leaders across the state are calling on Governor Brown to take action to keep families united and place reasonable limitations on deportations.
TRUST Act would ease burden on local governments of controversial program which has deported 72,694 Californians
SACRAMENTO – On June 12th, 2012, by a vote of 5 to 2, the California State Senate’s Public Safety Committee approved the new version of the TRUST Act (AB 1081 – Ammiano). The bill would reform California’s participation in the discredited “Secure” Communities deportation program – which has faced severe criticism for undermining public safety and burdening local governments – by limiting the unfair, extended detention of immigrants in local jails for deportation. Details are available below. The bill now heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration.
The committee heard powerful testimony from Blanca Perez, a Los Angeles mother facing deportation due to an arrest last year for selling ice cream on the street who urged the state to set an example for the rest of the country with the passage of the bill. “Immigrants in Alabama and Arizona are afraid today, but as my experience tells us, immigrants in Los Angeles, here in Sacramento and even in San Francisco, have reason to be afraid as well,” Ms. Perez told the committee.
“Blanca’s story confirms that ICE’s priorities are stunningly out-of-whack,” said Assemblymember Tom Ammiano. “This is something I’d expect in Arizona, not in Los Angeles. Persecuting this courageous, hard-working mom for selling ice cream on the street is a ridiculous waste of resources. Today’s vote recognizes that S-Comm is sabotaging our public safety. The TRUST Act is the solution we need to begin rebuilding the confidence that our local law enforcement worked so hard to build, but that ICE has shattered.”
Tuesday’s decision comes as the Supreme Court continues to mull Arizona’s anti-immigrant SB 1070, which like the controversial S-Comm program entangles local police in federal immigration enforcement. To create a “bright line” between local police and ICE, the TRUST Act would:
- Set a 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.
- Guard against profiling and wrongful detention of citizens and crime victims and witnesses. Localities that detain individuals with serious convictions for deportation would develop common-sense plans to prevent profiling and wrongful detentions.
Last year, a report by UC Berkeley’s Warren Institute estimated that nationwide, some 3,600 US Citizens were apprehended by ICE due to S-Comm since the program’s start and also found S-Comm was disproportionately targeting Latinos.
Under the program, the fingerprints of everyone arrested – even survivors of domestic violence arrested with their abusers – are automatically sent to ICE. Immigration officials then pressure local governments to hold immigrant community members in jail for extra time, at local expense, so that ICE can pick up the individuals for deportation. However, these “hold” requests are clearly voluntary under federal law.
The vote falls one week after Washington, DC became the latest in a string of local governments across the country to adopt policies similar to the TRUST Act and also comes days after the California Catholic Conference – which consists of all ten of the state’s Catholic Bishops – publicly announced its strong support for the bill.
Over one hundred community members from around the state attended today’s hearing in support of the bill.
About the TRUST Act: In 2011, the first version of the bill passed both the California Assembly (47-26) and the Senate Public Safety Committee (5-2). 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.
By the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice
The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to review Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, a potentially landmark case that could end the use of race-based affirmative action in higher education. The Court ruled nine years ago that although quota systems in admissions processes were unconstitutional, race can be used as a positive factor, just not a decisive factor. The Court reasoned that considering race as a factor—or race-consciousness—in the admissions process is important because a diverse student body improves the education of all students. Fisher, a White woman, claims that she was unconstitutionally denied admission to the University of Texas at Austin (UT-Austin) as a result of its affirmative action policy. With this new case, the Court’s previous ruling that race can be considered as part of the admissions process, is in danger of being overturned.
The Asian American Center for Advancing Justice (Advancing Justice)—Asian American Institute (AAI), Asian American Justice Center (AAJC), Asian Law Caucus (ALC), and Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC) will be filing an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to uphold race-conscious admissions.
We need affirmative action policies because not everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed. Universities should be allowed to consider the whole person, including one’s experiences as a racial minority, so that the opportunities that come from higher education are available to all qualified students. Asian Americans may appear to be well represented at some of the most selective universities, but among the various Asian ethnic groups, many, like Southeast Asians, continue to be vastly underrepresented. A university should be allowed to consider race as one of many factors in order to promote equal opportunity and educational diversity in its classrooms and on its campus. Read the rest of this entry »
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.
By Omar Calimbas, Housing Rights Attorney at Asian Law Caucus
The Obama Administration’s comprehensive housing plan and the $25 billion mortgage servicing settlement agreement between 49 state attorneys general, the U.S. Dept. of Justice, HUD and the nation’s top five servicers (Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citi, JP Morgan Chase, and Ally/GMAC) were announced this past February. These two represent the latest large-scale responses toAmerica’s foreclosure crisis. The President’s plan and the national settlement share several objectives, including the following: more refinancing to help non-delinquent yet underwater homeowners capture today’s historically low interest rates; more loan modifications, especially with principal reductions; and establishing new standards to prevent servicing abuses that ran rife in the industry and continue to do so today.
As usual, the persisting question is the actual availability of these solutions to everyone. This article will strive to touch upon some pieces of the national strategy that appear to be promising, both in general and with respect to Asian Pacific American homeowners and renters, as well as mention some of the missing pieces.
Crisis Hurting Some Communities More Than Others
For many distressed homeowners in Asian Pacific American communities, foreclosure fatigue will be difficult to overcome. The Administration’s housing plan and the national settlement come at the heels of ongoing programs such as the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), which has been heavily criticized for its limited success. According to the California Reinvestment Coalition (CRC), HAMP has been particularly challenging for communities of color. Canceled trial loan modifications, unsuccessful applications, and lower decreases in debt burdens were reported by CRC as disproportionately affecting minority borrowers.
A study of the foreclosure impact on Southeast Asians in the Central Valley of California reveals the heightened need to build capacity to address their housing issues. With one of the highest concentrations of Southeast Asians in the country, the Central Valley contains several cities that have been hit hardest by foreclosures nationally. According to the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (CAPACD) and the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center, the general income and education levels of Southeast Asian communities, coupled with language and cultural barriers, expose them to subprime and adjustable rate loans. These types of high risk loans make Southeast Asians more vulnerable to foreclosure. Moreover, Southeast Asian renter households represent a higher proportion than renters in the general population. As a result, Southeast Asian communities tend to be more at risk of eviction from foreclosed properties.
Notable Aspects of Obama’s Plan and the Settlement
Notwithstanding consumer disappointment with government efforts, there are some items in both the Administration’s proposal and the $25 billion national settlement that are noteworthy:
Principal reduction. Long-touted by housing advocates and economists as an efficient tool in preventing foreclosures, principal reductions (or loan forgiveness) find its way into the Administration’s plan through tripling existing incentives to lenders. The increased incentives would also be available to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The settlement would credit lenders for write-downs, which would be applied towards the $20 billion relief owed to consumers. Lenders have three years to complete this obligation.
Affordable housing. Unique to the White House plan is the dedication of funds towards housing for low-income families. CAPACD noted in particular the $1 billion in mandatory funding in 2013 for the Housing Trust Fund as a solid move towards the creation and preservation of affordable housing.
Due process and fair business practices. Pres. Obama is calling for a homeowner’s bill of rights to govern the mortgage industry, which would simplify and harmonize disclosure standards, servicing standards, establish a grievance procedure, and minimize conflicts of interests that have exposed consumers to servicing abuses. Now that the newly-established Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has a director, Richard Cordray, who would be responsible for promulgating and enforcing these rules, we expect some movement on this front in the near future. Analogous terms in the mortgage settlement provide a host of standards that would apply to servicers to prevent such abuses as robo-signing and dual tracking (pursuing a loan modification and foreclosure at the same time), while requiring a single point of contact for borrowers and oversight of the whole process.
Protecting Renters. Obama’s proposal intends to extend HAMP to protect homes that are rented out. In large, dense metropolitan areas like San Francisco and Manhattan, many low income families are renters of single family homes or secondary units on those properties. While it is unclear to what extent HAMP may help renters stay in their homes, it is theoretically a step in the right direction to the extent that it acknowledges the myriad forms of affordable housing.
What’s Left Out?
First, the mortgage settlement agreement doesn’t cover Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. These two combined own or guarantee over 60% of mortgages nationwide. Because no solution to the foreclosure crisis could leave out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from the equation, a broad swath of elected officials and non-profit organizations continue to push the GSEs to reform. The Asian Law Caucus has joined one coalition led by the CRC to demand that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac formalize policies to allow principal reductions, preclude dual-tracking and offer long-term leases to occupants residing in foreclosed properties.
Secondly, solving the housing crisis must not overlook patterns of racial discrimination in the industry, whether it’s with loan origination, servicing or modifications. Yet there is an alarming dearth of statistics on the demographics of the crisis. Most of the studies have been based in large part on grass-roots surveys with community-based organizations and housing counselors. CRC has been advocating for much-needed change here, both in having the mortgage settlement and existing federal law require proper collection of the demographics. A prime example would be the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA), which was enacted to collect industry data in order to ensure housing needs were adequately met with all communities, needs to be enhanced to provide for the collection and public reporting on loan modifications. Additionally, HMDA needs to disaggregate data on Asian Pacific American communities. It is clear that, given the sheer magnitude of the foreclosure crisis, any response must address the enhancement of the HMDA to prevent loan modification discrimination practices.
February 23, 2012 – As hundreds of day laborers and advocates from across the country marched in Los Angeles Wednesday evening to protest the devastating impact of the so-called “Secure” Communities or S-Comm deportation program, Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D-SF) publicly unveiled the details of a bill to reform California’s participation in the troubled program. Retired Sacramento Police Chief Arturo Venegas, Jr also attended the rally and expressed strong support for the new TRUST Act.
The announcement came in the wake of troubling revelations earlier this month that S-Comm made parents of Miramonte students in Los Angeles too fearful of deportation to contact law enforcement authorities to report their own children’s abuse,
The new incarnation of the TRUST Act, which captured national attention last year, 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:
· Sets a clear, minimum standard for local governments not to detain people for deportation unless the individual has a serious or violent felony conviction. These convictions are defined according to existing, clearly established state law.
· Guards against profiling and wrongful detention of citizens and crime victims. Jurisdictions that do choose to detain people with serious convictions for deportation will develop common-sense plans to make sure others aren’t swept up.
“To advance public safety, the TRUST Act will create a desperately needed “bright line” between local police and the scandal-plagued Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE). We need to rebuild community trust in law enforcement, which S-Comm has profoundly shaken,” said Asm. Ammiano in a statement from Sacramento. Further remarks from Asm. Ammiano are available at http://ndlon.org/en/blog-2/by-issue/1047-la-ammiano
Now amended, the bill will be heard in the Senate later this year.
Posted on behalf of the National Security and Civil Rights Program at the Asian Law Caucus
Request for Stories: How have the “Iran Sanctions” Affected You or Your Family?
All information will be kept Confidential
The Asian Law Caucus, in collaboration with the Iranian American Bar Association (“IABA”), the National Iranian American Council (“NIAC”), and the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (“PAAIA”), is documenting and collecting personal stories of Iranian Americans whose business, personal, family, or charitable affairs have been impacted by the Iranian Transactions Regulations (“Iran Sanctions”), or who would like to make a statement about their thoughts on the Sanctions.
We are gathering these stories for the purpose of an upcoming report on the impact the Iran Sanctions have had on Iranian-Americans and other people living in theUnited States.
All your information will be treated confidentially. We will not disseminate or share any personally identifying information without your written consent.
Please call the Asian Law Caucus at (415) 848-7711, or email Tina Sinha at email@example.com.
To download a copy of ALC’s Know Your Rights guide to the Iran Sanctions, please visit http://www.asianlawcaucus.org/alc/publications/iranian-sanctions/. The report is available in both English and Farsi.
For further information about our work, please visit www.asianlawcaucus.org.