In a few months, the nation will reach a tragic milestone: 2 million deportations under President Obama’s administration. Countless families have been broken up, and countless children are now without their parents.
And by entangling our local police and sheriffs in the machinery of deportation, the federal government has undermined community safety, put survivors and witnesses to crimes at risk, and wasted important local resources.
But now, the state of California - led by counties like Santa Clara and San Francisco - is helping to forge a new path.
THE TRUST ACT: CALIFORNIA LEADING THE WAY
The toll. In California, just one such deportation program, the misnamed "Secure Communities," has caused 100,000 deportations in the last few years and eroded trust between police and communities.
The community stands up. But people facing deportation through this program began to speak up. Survivors of domestic violence like Norma and Isaura Garcia, tamale vendors like Juana Reyes, wage theft victims like Jose Ucelo, and many others hurt by S-Comm told their stories and became civil rights leaders in the process. With a groundswell of support from communities, faith and law enforcement leaders, and Members of Congress, the tide has started to turn in California.
The successful passage of the TRUST Act (AB 4 - Ammiano) this year, a bill to limit cruel and costly immigration "hold" requests, marks a milestone in California's evolution. CIPC was proud to be one of 5 organizational co-sponsors of the bill and to work with a diverse and powerful coalition of grassroots community organizations from across the state.
Signature and significance. On Oct 5, 2013 Gov Brown signed a compromise version of the TRUST Act, declaring “While Washington waffles on immigration, California's forging ahead." Governor Brown made it clear: “we’re not using our jails as holding vats" for ICE. "Just as California's changed, Arizona's going to change."
Next steps. Here in California, we are gearing up to make sure the TRUST Act is fully and effectively implemented come Jan 1, 2014. The new law should stop thousands of deportations. And now, across the nation, immigrants and allies are calling on President Obama to follow California's lead and to immediately halt deportations.
WHAT THE TRUST ACT DOES
TRUST sets a compromise, minimum standard across the state to limit cruel and costly immigration “hold” requests in local jails. These optional holds trap undocumented Californians – and even citizens – for extra time, at local expense, just because ICE thinks it can deport them.
TRUST ensures that people with most low-level, non-violent offenses are not wastefully held for deportation purposes. At the same time, the bill signed into law gives law enforcement much more leeway to respond to hold requests than last year's version, allowing holds for both felony convictions and also for those accused of felonies under certain circumstances. It also allows holds for people with a number of higher level misdemeanor (or “wobbler”) convictions within 5 years and for certain federal criminal convictions.
Local POlicies: setting the highest standard
The TRUST Act is a minimum standard to begin improving safety and saving resources. Local governments can and should take further steps to limit cruel and costly ICE hold requests, since every immigration "hold" request risks violating the constitution and raises serious civil liberties and due process issues.
The more local law enforcement distances itself from a broken deportation system, the more trust it will rebuild with the community.
To date, two California counties have enacted very strong policies:
Santa Clara County, through a policy championed by the Santa Clara County FIRE coalition, does not submit to any immigration hold requests whatsoever
San Francisco, through a policy championed by the SF Immigrant Rights Defense Committee, submits to virtually no immigration holds.