Immigrant rights advocates are lauding a new California law taking effect today that will limit the criteria by which a local law enforcement agency can comply with federal deportation hold requests.
The Trust Act, introduced by state Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in October and takes effect in the new year.
Under the new statewide law, only those convicted of a serious or violent felony can be subject to deportation hold requests by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The law comes in response to Secure Communities, an ICE program in which a person’s fingerprints are run through a federal database to determine their immigration status.
Once the person is eligible for release from custody, ICE requests that local law enforcement hold those who are found to be undocumented so deportation proceedings can commence.
Immigrant advocates say the program has led to the deportation of tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in California since 2009, the majority of whom had minor convictions or were cleared of wrongdoing.
Jon Rodney from the California Immigrant Policy Center said the Trust Act will help to restore undocumented immigrants’ faith in their local law enforcement and keep more families together.
“Many victims and witnesses to crimes are getting swept up in this deportation dragnet,” Rodney said. “By creating this minimum standard across the state, we will see less deportations and more confidence in local law enforcement.”
He said some Bay Area counties like San Francisco and Santa Clara have gone beyond the Trust Act to implement even stronger restrictions regarding the immigration holds.
“The more separation between local police and ICE, the better,” Rodney said.
Gov. Brown initially vetoed an earlier version of the Trust Act in 2012, saying it prevented law enforcement from holding someone for deportation even if they had a serious criminal past.
In the amended legislation that passed the Legislature and was signed by the governor, those who are convicted of serious or violent felonies like sexual abuse, drug trafficking and gang-related offenses are eligible for the ICE holds.
Brown said in a statement after signing the legislation on Oct. 5, “While Washington waffles on immigration, California’s forging ahead. I’m not waiting.”
Dan McMenamin, Bay City News