Photo by Jason Nahrung/Flickr (Creative Commons)
California legislators are moving in that direction, at least. A state Senate committee has approved a bill dubbed TRUST Act 2.0, which proposes restricting who it is that law enforcement agencies can hold for deportation at the request of immigration officials.
The bill, which was approved 5-2 today in the Senate Public Safety Committee, has a roundabout history: About this time last year, the original TRUST Act (the acronym stands for "Transparency and Responsibility Using State Tools") was moving through the statehouse. Back then, the bill aimed to make optional California counties and cities’ participation in the Secure Communities immigration enforcement program.
The controversial program was first rolled out by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in 2008. It allows the fingerprints of people booked at local jails to be shared with immigration officials. If there is a records match, local authorities must hold the person for ICE and pending removal. Critics say it casts too wide of a net, landing some who haven't committed a crime in deportation.
The original bill was rendered moot last August, after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement rescinded state agreements with the agency allowing Secure Communities to operate.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, the bill's original Assembly sponsor Tom Ammiano, a Bay Area Democrat, tweaked it to reflect the new reality. The idea now is for local agencies to work with ICE as mandated, but only to a point. The bill proposes that law enforcement agencies in California only hold immigrants for ICE if the person has a violent or otherwise serious criminal conviction. From the bill text:
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.
There's one more committee vote before the bill heads to the Senate floor. If successful, there would then be a "concurrence" vote in the Assembly, which approved the original bill but hasn't voted on this version.
There have been similar responses elsewhere to ICE's decision to move ahead with Secure Communities, including in Washington, D.C., where local officials voted recently to place limits on local authorities holding immigrants for the agency. A similar measure was recently approved in Santa Clara County, California.