Back in the fall, the California legislature sent a bill, the TRUST Act, to Governor Jerry Brown that would have put some limits on the extent that local law enforcement in the Golden State cooperates with federal immigration authorities. Governor Brown ended up vetoing that bill to the dismay of immigration rights activists. In the federal effort to boost deportation numbers, the implementation of the Secure Communities program, which was supposed to aid in the removal of the most serious criminal offenders has actually led to the deportation of minor offenders or “noncriminals.”
Because many noncriminal immigrants were being caught in the deportation dragnet, some law enforcement officers in California began to advocate for opting out of the federal government’s Secure Communities program because it was compromising trust between them and the communities they seek to protect. Back in December of last year, California Attorney General Kamala Harris told local law enforcement that participation in the federal program was optional saying that she wanted immigrants to feel comfortable approaching the police if they needed to.
Last Thursday, the California State Assembly passed another version of the TRUST Act that Brown vetoed in the fall by a vote of 44-20 and sent the bill to the State Senate. If the bill makes it out of the Senate, there will be renewed pressure on Governor Brown to sign it, especially in light of a recent study showing that local police involvement in immigration enforcement makes Latinos reluctant to cooperate with law enforcement and in the context of the timing of the immigration reform bill in Washington, D.C.
Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), who authored the bill, said in a statement released on Thursday, “I am committed to engaging in a dialogue with the Governor. I hope he will come to the table and ultimately champion a bill to protect thousands of California families from a wasteful and out of control deportation system. We should not deport people today, when tomorrow they could be on the road to citizenship under immigration reform.”
For months, activists have been asking the Obama administration to put a moratorium on deportations while the negotiations for comprehensive immigration reform are happening. The administration has insisted that it must enforce existing immigration laws. From January to March of this year, some 5,000 Californians have been deported and most of these people did not have serious convictions.
The Executive Director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, Pablo Alvarado, praised the Assembly for passing the TRUST Act last week, “The California Assembly affirmed its commitment to public safety and civil rights today. We are all less safe when imaginary fears born in places like Arizona trump legitimate public safety concerns in our communities. The cloud of suspicion cast by the federal Secure Communities deportation program has created a crisis in California. The TRUST Act makes us safer by taking serious the rational fear immigrants have of police and pushing back on the unjust deportations that are ravaging our state. It is now time for Governor Brown to demonstrate leadership in repairing what everyone agrees is a broken, unjust, and dangerous status quo.”
The TRUST Act is just one measure that has been gaining momentum to limit local law enforcement in detaining undocumented immigrants. Last week on the same day that the TRUST Act was passed in the California Assembly, the New Orleans City Council in Louisiana asked its Sheriff to stop holding immigrants in jail because the federal government may suspect that they are in the country illegally. New Orleans was prompted to act in part because of the costs incurred to hold the immigrants. This week the TRUST Act will be taken up in the California Senate.