Photo by John Moore/Getty Images
A California state bill heard in Sacramento today that challenges the embattled federal immigration enforcement program known as Secure Communities has cleared a public safety committee vote. If it eventually becomes law, the bill would make the participation of local law enforcement in the fingerprint-sharing program optional, removing California counties from the mandatory program temporarily, then allowing them to rejoin voluntarily. The bill has been dubbed the Transparency and Responsibility Using State Tools Act, or "TRUST Act."
From the text of AB 1081, introduced earlier this year by Assembly member Tom Ammiano, a Bay Area Democrat, and amended two weeks ago:
Existing law, setting forth the findings and declarations of the
Legislature, provides that all protections, rights, and remedies
available under state law, except any reinstatement remedy prohibited
by federal law, are available to all individuals regardless of
immigration status who have applied for employment, or who are or who
have been employed, within the state, and further provides that, for
purposes of enforcing specified state laws, a person's immigration
status is irrelevant to the issue of liability, and prohibits, in
proceedings or discovery undertaken to enforce those state laws, an
inquiry into a person's immigration status except where the person
seeking to make the inquiry has shown by clear and convincing
evidence that the inquiry is necessary in order to comply with
federal immigration law.
This bill would state the findings and declarations of the
Legislature with respect to a memorandum of agreement with the United
States Department of Homeland Security, regarding the implementation
of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Secure Communities
program, that the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Information
within the Department of Justice entered into on May 8
April 10 , 2009.
The bill would require the
bureau to modify that agreement, according to specified requirements,
or to exercise its authority under the agreement to terminate the
Art by José Luís Agapito/Flickr (Creative Commons)
Hundreds of emails from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement released yesterday illustrate the confusion over Secure Communities, a federal fingerprint sharing program whose involuntary nature has frustrated local law enforcement in some jurisdictions, including in California.
The emails include internal communication between ICE officials and with state officials in California. They were obtained through Freedom of Information Act litigation by legal advocacy groups that include Los Angeles' National Day Laborer Organizing Network, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law's Immigration Justice Clinic. The groups have described the content of the emails as attempts to deliberately mislead California officials about the nature of the program, initiated in 2008, which many at first believed to be voluntary.
Photo by Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC
It's been a year in which immigration has played a part in everything from the economy and the 2010 census to the California governor's race, making it tough to limit the year's biggest immigration stories to a list of only five. The stories we have reviewed this week have included the tragic massacre of migrants near the Texas border in Tamaulipas, which highlighted just how dangerous clandestine passage to the United States has become; the record number of deportations under the Obama administration, part of an enforcement trade-off for broader reforms that never came; the controversial enforcement programs Secure Communities and 287(g); and the Dream Act, which prompted an unexpected student movement in support of its proposed conditional status for undocumented college students and military hopefuls.
Photo by 888bailbonds/Flickr (Creative Commons)
A Los Angeles County prisoner bus, June 2009. The county extended its participation in the federal 287(g) program in October.
The record number of deportations carried out in the past two years by immigration officials under the Obama administration has been fueled, in large part, by the use of two controversial federal programs that work in cooperation with local agencies, Secure Communities and 287(g).
Both predate the current administration, but their use has been expanded as the Obama administration has shifted its focus to catching and deporting immigrants with criminal records, which the programs are meant to target. Administration officials have lauded both as instrumental to enforcement, culminating with the deportation of almost 800,000 immigrants in two years.
But neither program has worked exactly as planned, drawing heavy scrutiny this year from both immigrant advocates and government officials, including some in jurisdictions that have tried to opt out of one - the Secure Communities fingerprint-sharing program - and learned they can't.
Photo by John Moore/Getty Images
A man waits to be processed at a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility in Arizona.
It was the Obama administration's strategic trade-off on immigration: A stepped-up approach to enforcement which, the President hoped, would help win over Republican lawmakers for bipartisan support of a sweeping overhaul of the nation's immigration system.
In the end, with insufficient support for anything broader, the only thing to stick this year has been the enforcement. The Obama administration has deported nearly 800,000 immigrants in the past two years, more than during any other two-year period in the nation's history.
The exact numbers for this year have been disputed: The record figure released last fall of more than more than 392,000 deportations in fiscal year 2010, which topped the 2009 record, turned out to include more than 19,000 immigrants removed the previous fiscal year, as well as a small number of repatriations that would normally have been counted by the U.S. Border Patrol.