State Senate Committee approves bill to counteract disgraced “S-Comm’ deportation program

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June 14, 2012

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.

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