(Undocumented immigrants being searched before boarding a deportation flight. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images))

California group urges Governor to sign TRUST Act, limiting local law enforcement immigration holds

In California, 28 Democratic legislators and local sheriffs are lobbying their support for an amended TRUST Act. If signed by California Democratic Governor Jerry Brown, it would limit when local law enforcement responds to Immigration and Customs Enforcement [ICE] hold requests. The original bill was vetoed by Brown last year, The TRUST Act responds to Secure Communities, a program in which local law enforcement officials share the fingerprints of people they book with federal immigration agents, which is then used by federal law enforcement to filter out and possibly deport immigrants with criminal convictions.

“The Secure Communities program has diminished trust in our immigrant communities of local law enforcement,” said William Landsdowne, the Chief of Police in San Diego in a letter to the Governor. “This has resulted is less corporation and conflict for immigrant victims and witnesses of crime.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic members of Congress, including Juan Vargas, Gloria Negrete McLeod, Loretta Sanchez and Lucille Roybal-Allard support the amended TRUST Act. Other members of the California congressional delegation tweeted, urging the Governor to sign the bill.

Law enforcement officials such as David Bejarano, Chief of Police in the city of Chula Vista California, say the amended bill still preserves public safety and focuses on holding and possibly deporting immigrants who have committed serious, not minor, crimes.

“As amended, the bill recognizes your concerns by allowing law enforcement discretion to detain individuals for a long list of crimes, including the specific crimes you listed in your veto message in 2012,” said Bejarano in a letter to Governor Brown.

Immigration reform advocates say Secure Communities has had a negative effect, and the bill, like its name, is meant to restore trust.

“The Trust Act is first and foremost legislation to increase public safety in California,” said Chris Newman, the Legal Director with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network [NDLON.] “It is meant to establish a guideline rule across the state that will restore trust in law enforcement in immigrant communities lost as a result of the Secure Communities program.”

ICE does not comment on proposed state legislation, but has provided several statistics showing the increasing trend reflects more deportations of those with criminal convictions rather than simply undocumented immigrants. In 2008, 31 percent of people deported had criminal convictions. In 2012, it was 55 percent. According to ICE, in 2013, 57 percent of those deported have had criminal convictions.

“The identification and removal of criminal offenders is ICE’s highest priority and over the past three and half years, ICE has been dedicated to implementing smart, effective reforms to the immigration system that allow it to focus its resources on priority individuals,” said Gillian Christensen, an ICE spokesperson. “ICE has implemented clear priorities that focus on convicted criminals and other public safety threats, on those who repeatedly violate our immigration laws.”

But immigrant advocates and officials in favor of the Trust Act think the proposed legislation will do a better job ensuring that less families are separated and there is more community involvement and trust among Latino and immigrant groups.

“It also will protect civil rights and will prevent immigrants from being criminalized,” says Chris Newman.

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