Category Archives: Press Coverage

California TRUST Act Builds Wall Around Secure Communities (IVN)

[Last week], the California Senate passed the TRUST Act.  Known by some as the “anti-Arizona immigration law,” it would limit California law enforcement’s cooperation with the federal Secure Communities program.  The TRUST Act is positive news for California budgets, residents of the state, and police departments that practice community-policing strategies.

The TRUST Act is an improvement for three main reasons:

1.  The TRUST Act would limit immigration detainers to unauthorized immigrants convicted of a serious or violent felony.  This is essential to continuing California cities’  successful use of community policing strategies that rely on informant and witness cooperation with police, even if they are unauthorized immigrants.  If the possibility of deportation is increased with Secure Communities, fewer unauthorized immigrants and their legal families will go out on a limb to help police solve real crime.

2.  The TRUST Act would lower the cost for local governments who object to the high cost of detaining suspected unauthorized immigrants.  Food, guards, prisons, beds, and other amenities provided to suspected unauthorized immigrants are too expensive for many jurisdictions.

3.  The TRUST Act frees those who haven’t been convicted of violent or serious felonies and would prevent imprisonment of American citizens like James Makowski.

Beyond the TRUST Act, Secure Communities should be discontinued. Secure Communities is a federal immigration enforcement program that links fingerprint records with government immigration and criminal databases.  If ICE suspects an arrestee is an unauthorized immigrant, it issues a detainer to hold the arrestee so that ICE is notified when the arrestee is to be released, often delaying the arrestee’s release until ICE is ready—on merely a suspicion that the arrestee is an unauthorized immigrant.  ICE then detains the arrestee, verifies he is unauthorized (occasionally they deport American citizens by accident), and deports him.  Meanwhile, local police departments hold these suspected unauthorized immigrants past their release dates.

Secure Communities was started in March 2008 by the Bush administration and was piloted in 14 police jurisdictions in October of that year.  By now, Secure Communities is active in over 3,000 jurisdictions in the United States and will be nationwide shortly.  States and localities originally volunteered to cooperate with ICE in this program, but some states like New York and Illinois want to drop out.  The government’s response to their requests was to declare Secure Communities mandatory despite earlier agreements and statements to the contrary.

Makowski, who was naturalized at the age of 1 after his American parents adopted him from India, was held for two months in a maximum security prison in Pontiac, Ill., because his immigration files were not updated after he was naturalized.

“Everybody makes mistakes. I’ve made mine,” said Makowski. “But if the government can detain a U.S. citizen without justification, that’s pretty outrageous. There have to be safeguards in place.”

He is suing the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security for his two-month detention.

ICE officials have previously stated in their Secure Communities agreement with California that the program would only target those “convicted of serious offenses.”  Recently obtained government documents show that Secure Communities issues detainers for people who are not suspected of any criminal conduct.  Some are detained by Secure Communities because they were unable to identify themselves satisfactorily at drivers’ license checkpoints or because they were arrested for identification purposes.  Merely being arrested for non-serious offenses should not subject an arrestee to Secure Communities.

Secure Committees has lost credibility with the public, imposes heavy incarceration costs on states, and the resources expended on it should be used to deport unauthorized immigrants who have been convicted of violent or serious felonies.  The TRUST Act would build a wall around the worst parts of Secure Communities in California and help restore confidence between police and immigrants.

Undocumented Life: Chicago-area U.S. citizen becomes first to sue over detention under Secure Communities (Chicago Now)

By MariaZamudio
When James Makowski pleaded guilty to drug possession in 2010, he agreed to enter a 120-day boot camp as punishment. He figured it wouldn’t be as bad as the boot camp he completed when he entered the U.S. Marines.

But instead of boot camp, James ended up serving two months in a maximum security prison in Pontiac, Ill.

Makowski’s fingerprints were submitted to an FBI database and later shared with the homeland security department’s Automated Biometric Identification System. His name was flagged and an immigration “detainer” was issued.

The problem is that Makowski is a U.S. citizen.

Now the Chicago-area resident is suing the FBI and Homeland Security, becoming the first U.S. citizen to challenge Secure Communities–the federal program that helps local authorities identify potentially undocumented immigrants.

“I pleaded guilty with the understanding that I would only do boot camp. But because the detainer was issued I was disqualified from entering the boot camp,” he told The Chicago Reporter. “I was pretty shocked. I couldn’t believe it. I’m a U.S. citizen. I felt like I was hit by a freight train. I was upset, depressed and helpless.”

Makowski was born in India. He was adopted by an American family when he was 4 months old.  The family moved around the country before settling in Illinois. Makowski became a naturalized U.S. citizen at age 1, but the government did not update his immigration records, according to Mark Fleming, attorney with the Chicago-based National Immigrant Justice Center.

Under Secure Communities, fingerprints of anyone arrested by local law enforcement agencies are submitted to the FBI and are later shared with DHS.

“Part of the problem here is that immigration officials never bothered to interview him,” said Geoffrey A. Vance, who is representing Makowski. “If they did they would have known that he was a citizen. They relied on the data and never bothered to check.”

Makowski’s lawsuit was filed last week in U.S. District Court of Northern Illinois and it argues that the FBI and Department of Homeland Security violated the Privacy Act, which restricts what information may be passed between government agencies, every time they share fingerprints from people who are not suspected of an immigration violation, according to the lawsuit.

Immigration officials deny having violated the Privacy Act.

“The information-sharing partnership between the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI serves as the cornerstone of Secure Communities, and fulfills a mandate required by federal law. This information sharing does not violate the Privacy Act. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is evaluating the allegations contained in the lawsuit; however, we do not comment on pending litigation,” officials said in a prepared statement.

The Secure Communities program was designed to find and deport dangerous criminals, but a Chicago Reporter investigation found that many of the undocumented immigrants in Illinois being placed in deportation proceeded had no criminal record.

In Illinois, 46 percent of 3,023 people who were booked into immigration custody under Secure Communities between Nov. 24, 2009, and July 25, 2011, were never charged with, or convicted of, the crimes for which they were arrested, according to the Reporter’s analysis of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security records.

Another 29 percent were charged with one misdemeanor, which in many cases stemmed from a traffic violation, before being taken into immigration custody, the analysis shows.

But immigration officials say the Secure Communities program has been successful at identifying dangerous criminals.

Local immigration officials say Secure Communities helped find a 23-year-old undocumented immigrant last month in Lake County. His record shows that he had a previous conviction for human smuggling in Arizona in 2008, according to Gail Montenegro, spokeswoman for the enforcement agency.

But Fleming of the National Immigrant Justice Center says Makowski and other U.S. citizens are at risk.

“U.S. citizens are a vulnerable population to Secure Communities,” he said.

Makowski said he just hopes his experience is not repeated, and wants the lawsuit to change the system.

“If my family didn’t have the resources I don’t know where I would be,” he said. “There are plenty of people who don’t have these resources.”

‘California Cannot Afford To Be Another Arizona,’ Lawmaker Says

“Immigration detainers are a drain on local resources because state and local law enforcement agencies are not reimbursed for the full cost of responding to a detainer, which can include, but is not limited to, extended detention time and the administrative costs of tracking and responding to detainers,” the legislation text reads.

SACRAMENTO, CA – On Thursday, the state Senate approved legislation that would prohibit local law enforcement agencies from detaining an illegal immigrant for deportation at the request of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) if that person is eligible for release from criminal custody.

Assembly Bill 1081, otherwise known as the Trust Act, passed in the Senate with a 21-13 vote. In May 2011, the bill passed in the State Assembly 47-26.

“The bill … limits unjust and onerous detentions for deportation in local jails of community members who do not pose a threat to public safety,” said Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), the bill’s lead author. “[The] vote signals to the nation that California cannot afford to be another Arizona.”

The immigration detentions “are a drain on local resources” because state and local law enforcement agencies are not reimbursed by the feds for the cost of keeping non-criminals awaiting deportation in custody, according to the legislation’s text.

AB 1081 would still allow immigration detainers to be placed on people who have not been released from criminal custody or have a serious or violent felony conviction.

AB 1081 will next come back to the State Assembly for one concurrence vote following summer recess before heading to the governor’s desk.

ICE Western Regional Communications Director Virginia Kice said Friday that her agency does not comment on pending legislation, but she did forward an ICE statement. According to Kice, when a detainer is issued, the local law enforcement agency is asked by ICE to maintain custody of the undocumented immigrant for a period not to exceed 48 hours, excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays.

The cost of keeping people in custody due to the ICE detainers is being compiled by Ammiano’s office, according to the assemblyman’s spokeswoman Misa Yokoi-Shelton. She said the cost to Riverside County was not immediately available.

Ammiano’s office contends the Trust Act was introduced in February 2011 as a response to the federal “Secure Communities” or S-Comm deportation program, which the assemblyman describes as a parallel to Arizona’s controversial SB 1070. Under S-Comm, the FBI automatically sends fingerprints to ICE to check against its immigration databases. If the checks show a person is in the country illegally, ICE takes enforcement action.

Angela F. Chan, senior staff attorney at the Asian Law Caucus, a nonprofit civil rights organization located in San Francisco, said S-Comm encourages racial profiling by law enforcement.

“About 76 percent of the 2,460 residents deported under the S-Comm program from Riverside County are individuals without criminal records or those arrested for lesser offenses, including misdemeanors and traffic violations,” Chan said.

Seventy-two thousand people in California have been removed from the country under S-Comm and seven in 10 were deported with either no conviction or for minor offenses, Ammiano’s office contends.

State senate passes bill limiting obligation to detain immigrants (Daily Californian)

By Daphne Chen

A bill that would limit California law enforcement’s cooperation with certain federal immigration policies passed the state Senate Thursday.

The TRUST Act — Transparency and Responsibility Using State Tools — would make it easier for statewide law enforcement agencies to opt out of a program requiring them to detain immigrants who have not committed felonies or other serious crimes for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The bill was originally introduced last year by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, and passed by both the California State Assembly and the Senate Public Safety Committee. The current act, heavily amended since it was originally introduced, was written in response to a controversial program launched through ICE in 2008 called Secure Communities.

“I think it will be something that will hopefully lessen the fear in immigrant communities,” said Aarti Kohli, senior fellow at the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy at the UC Berkeley School of Law. “There’s a lot of fear that interacting with local police will lead to deportation.”

Through Secure Communities, detainees’ fingerprints are run through the federal database, which then sends the data to ICE even if the person has no criminal history. If there is a fingerprint match, ICE would review databases to determine if the individual is removable.

According to Tiffany Mok, a legislative advocate for the American Civil Liberties Union, local law enforcement usually holds an individual for up to 48 hours while waiting for an ICE detainer.

But two weeks ago, the Berkeley Police Department announced it will not honor its agreement with ICE to hold illegal immigrants who are being detained for minor offenses.

Berkeley City Council voted to send the policy to the city manager to review specifics of what qualifies as a criminal act. The policy will be presented to the council again in September, when, according to Councilmember Jesse Arreguin, it is likely to pass.

If the TRUST Act is passed, Berkeley’s policy will work concurrently on a citywide level.

“Over 70 percent who have been deported were convicted of low-level crimes,” Arreguin said. “We’re not going to hand them to ICE … The TRUST Act is a really important bill to ensure justice and fairness. It balances policies to protect public safety with the need to make sure our immigrant communities are not being targeted.”

The bill is also known as the “anti-Arizona law,” in reference to the Arizona law allowing police in Arizona to investigate an individual’s citizenship based on “reasonable suspicion.”

“(The) vote signals to the nation that California cannot afford to be another Arizona,” Ammiano said in a press release.

Berkeley council members also rallied in opposition by voting to boycott businesses headquartered in Arizona and have continued to uphold the resolution since 2010.

“(The boycott) is to send a message to the governor of Arizona that these policies that criminalize immigrants, that promote racial profiling, that really create fear and division in the community, are the wrong ways to go,” Arreguin said.

However, other groups, such as the California State Sheriffs’ Association and the Center for Immigration Studies, have been critical of the legislation.

According to Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, D.C., the act is based on many faulty misconceptions and would make it harder for local police and federal authorities to remove criminals.

“It’s a big mistake to pick and choose which criminal aliens are going to be held for ICE,” Vaughan said. “It makes much more sense for ICE to make that decision based on what they know about the immigrant’s background.”

According to Vaughan, in many cases, illegal immigrants still have due process and are entitled to make their case before an immigration judge.

The bill will go back to the state Assembly for a concurrence vote after summer recess ends in August, and then to Gov. Jerry Brown for a final decision.

“The most important thing now is contacting the governor and urging him to sign the bill,” Arreguin said. 

California Senate passes "anti-Arizona" Immigration Bill (Reuters)

The California Senate passed a bill on Thursday that seeks to shield illegal immigrants from status checks by local police and challenges Republican-backed immigration crackdowns in Arizona and other U.S. states.

The Democrat-led state Senate voted 21 to 13 to approve the California Trust Act, dubbed by supporters as the “anti-Arizona” bill. It blocks local police from referring a detainee to immigration officials for deportation unless that person has been convicted of a violent or serious felony.

“Today’s vote signals to the nation that California cannot afford to be another Arizona,” Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, a Democrat who sponsored the measure, said in a statement.

“The bill also limits unjust and onerous detentions for deportation in local jails of community members who do not pose a threat to public safety,” he added.

The bill has the backing of about 100 immigrant rights groups, police chiefs and mayors. It has already passed the Democrat-controlled state Assembly in a 47-26 vote and will go back to the Assembly for a concurrence vote following the summer recess before heading to Democratic Governor Jerry Brown.

The measure seeks to create a national model to counter what backers say is racial profiling inherent in a part of Arizona’s crackdown on illegal immigration that was allowed to stand by the U.S. Supreme Court last week.

In passing the bill, California stands apart not only from Arizona, but also Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah, which have all adopted strict laws in the past two years to try to discourage illegal immigrants from settling in their states.

On June 25, the top U.S. court upheld the most controversial aspect of Arizona’s immigration statute: a requirement that police officers check the immigration status of people they stop, even for minor offenses such as jay-walking.

Opponents have argued that Arizona’s law could lead to illegal racial or ethnic profiling of Hispanics in the state, while backers say it is needed because the federal government has failed to secure the border with Mexico.

SECURE COMMUNITIES

California’s bill also seeks to push back against a federal program called Secure Communities, which supporters of Thursday’s bill say shares similar principles to Arizona’s law.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, or ICE, established the Secure Communities program in partnership with local law enforcement agencies and the FBI to deport unauthorized immigrants.

Local authorities send fingerprints of those arrested to ICE, which says it prioritizes deporting those with criminal records. The program was credited as a factor in that agency’s nearly 400,000 deportations in 2011, its highest number ever.

The California State Sheriff’s Association, which opposes the bill approved on Thursday, could not immediately be reached for comment. It has said previously that state and local authorities cannot opt out of the Secure Communities program.

It also said that ICE focuses on only the most serious cases involving convicted criminals and repeat offenders.

Ammiano said that the federal program has been responsible for deporting over 72,000 Californians, with 70 percent of those deported from the state having either no criminal convictions, or convictions for a minor offense.

Critics have lambasted the program for placing victims of domestic violence in deportation proceedings and deterring immigrants from reporting crimes committed against them.

California has the largest population of undocumented immigrants in the United States, with nearly 2.6 million at the start of 2010, according to government figures.

(Reporting by Mary Slosson; Writing by Tim Gaynor; Editing by Todd Eastham and Paul Simao)