2017.1.4 – As California’s legislature reconvenes today, legislation to keep the state out of painful mass deportations will be a top item on this year’s agenda. These efforts will build on a first step, a brand-new state law in effect since Sunday, that has already created one additional layer of protection for the Golden State’s immigrant residents.
The TRUTH Act, AB 2792 by Assemblymember Bonta (D-Oakland), requires local jails throughout the state to inform immigrant community members of their basic rights to decline abusive interrogations with federal deportation agents – or to have an attorney present.
To educate immigrant community members, immigrant rights groups, allied in the “ICE out of California” coalition, have translated know your-rights materials into over a dozen languages, including six indigenous tongues and will be distributing wallet-sized cards across the state. The materials are available at http://www.caimmigrant.org/
Specifically, the TRUTH Act puts vital know-your-rights information in the hands of immigrant community members held in local jails and targeted by ICE. The new law guarantees community members the “right to know” if ICE has asked the local jail to turn the person over for deportation, and the “right to say no” or to request to have an attorney present for abusive interview requests where deportation agents often coerce, intimidate, and violate basic rights. Though interviews with ICE inside local jails are optional, immigrants were previously denied information to that effect. If local law enforcement does notify ICE about a person’s release date, they must also notify that person’s loved ones or attorney.
TRUTH will also shine a light on the hidden pain caused by the involvement of local sheriffs and police in deportations. Starting in 2018, any City or County that does turn a community member over to ICE must hold a public forum to explain the decision. The bill makes clear that records relating to ICE’s entanglement with local jails are public records.
As immigrant rights groups work to vigorously implement the TRUTH Act, they will simultaneously push for the California Values Act, SB 54 by Senate President Kevin De León (D-Los Angeles), which would ensure that no state or local resources are used to fuel mass deportations, make key locations like schools into safe zones, and keep California out of any sort of registry targeting Muslims or other groups at risk of discrimination.
Community groups urge the public to recognize the humanity of people who have had arrests or convictions and to think critically about attempts by anti-immigrant forces to demonize immigrants. Cases like that of Jose Alvarez of Long Beach, who served his time decades ago for a drug felony but was recently torn from his six U.S. Citizen-children (one of whom is a veteran), illustrate the human cost.