Photo by antonychammond/Flickr (Creative Commons)
A year ago, a bill was moving through the California state legislature that aimed to make optional counties and cities' participation in the controversial Secure Communities immigration enforcement program.
At the time, California was one of several states in which some state and law enforcement officials had come out against the federal program, which allows the fingerprints of people booked at local jails to be shared with immigration officials.
The bill was rendered moot last August, after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement rescinded state agreements with the agency allowing Secure Communities to operate. The decision essentially made the program mandatory, leaving states no choice but to go along.
As a counter to that, the same California lawmaker behind last year's bill is now pushing an alternative dubbed TRUST Act 2.0. The idea is for local agencies to work with ICE as mandated, but only to a point, since the bill proposes restricting who it is that law enforcement agencies can hold for deportation at the request of ICE.
The bill, sponsored by Assembly member Tom Ammiano, a Bay Area Democrat, came back to the state senate amended earlier this month. It proposes that law enforcement agencies in California only hold immigrants for ICE if the person has a violent or otherwise serious criminal conviction. How it stands now, ICE can place a detention hold on any immigrant identified as deportable via Secure Communities, whether the person has a criminal record or not.
The Obama administration has said that its focus is on deporting immigrants with criminal records. However, one of the criticisms of Secure Communities, which began in 2008, is that it casts too wide a net, landing people without criminal backgrounds in deportation proceedings, such as domestic violence victims or people with minor traffic offenses.
Here's an excerpt from a relevant section of Trust Act 2.0 as amended this month, titled "Standards for Responding to United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Holds:"
An individual shall not be detained by a law enforcement official on the basis of an immigration hold after that individual becomes eligible for release from criminal custody, unless, at the time the individual becomes eligible for release from criminal custody, both of the following conditions are satisfied:
(a) The individual has been convicted of a serious or violent felony, according to a criminal background check or documentation provided to the law enforcement official by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
(b) The continued detention of the individual on the basis of the immigration hold would not violate any federal, state, or local law, or any local policy.
Local jurisdictions would also be required to have plans in place to prevent the detention of U.S. citizens, racial profiling, and conditions that might prevent victims and witnesses from stepping forward to report crimes.
TRUST (which stands for Transparency and Responsibility Using State Tools) Act 2.0 was one of the California bills highlighted today in Sacramento in an annual event that's become known as Immigrant Day, during which immigrant advocacy, civil rights, faith and other groups rally in Sacramento for legislation favorable to immigrants. It has yet to come up for a committee vote.
The text of the amended bill can he read here.