February 23, 2012
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.
The Miramonte scandal is a deeply tragic example of the reasons S-Comm has faced unrelenting criticism from local officials and community leaders for undermining public safety and functioning without transparency or local oversight. A steady stream of disturbing revelations in recent months – including the mistaken detention of US Citizens in Los Angeles and elsewhere – has underscored the Department of Homeland Security’s continued failure to repair the deeply troubled program.
Despite the federal government’s attempt to force the state of California into participating into S-Comm, ICE’s burdensome “detainer” requests to hold immigrants for deportation for extra time at local expense – the linchpin of the program – are clearly optional under federal law. Courts and ICE itself have confirmed this.
Deportations of Californians under the program exceeded 63,000 as of Dec. 31, about 7 in 10 of whom had no convictions or had been apprehended as a result of offenses as minor as selling food without a permit. A report issued last month by the UC Irvine Law School’s Immigrant Rights Clinic found: “ICE’s failure to adhere to its own stated priorities is a feature rather than a reparable flaw of the [Secure Communities] program.”
Community leaders from 40 organizations from 15 states – including “battleground” states like Alabama, Georgia, and Arizona – enthusiastically marched in support of the first-in-the-nation bill on Wednesday.
About the TRUST Act: Passed by both the California Assembly (47-26) and the Senate Public Safety Committee (5-2) last year, the bill originally sought to modify the state of California’s agreement with the federal government over S-Comm in order to curb the program’s well-documented abuses. However, in astunning display of bad faith, ICE shredded all state agreements last year but claimed states still needed to participate in the program. 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.