Category Archives: Press (California)

Sheriff Baca told to break ties with ‘Secure Communities’ (Fight Back!)

Sheriff Baca told to break ties with ‘Secure Communities’

Los Angeles, CA – Immigrant rights organizations staged a press conference here July 12, to demand that Sheriff Lee Baca stop cooperating with the ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) ‘Secure Communities’ program. The Secure Communities program has resulted in the repression of thousands of immigrants. The press conference was organized by the National Day Labors Organizing Network. Participants included representatives from CARCEN Day Labor Center, ACLU, Pomona Day Labor Center, Southern California Immigration Coalition (SCIC) and CHIRLA.

Pablo Alvarado, with National Day Labors Organizing Network, said the L.A. County jail under Sheriff Baca deports more people per year than Arizona’s Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Alvarado also said that when President Obama was looking to push Secure Communities, he wanted Sheriff Baca’s support, because Los Angeles is trend-setting city.

Carlos Montes spoke on behalf of the Southern California Immigration Coalition, demanding that Sheriff Baca stop collaborating with ICE and that Baca support the Trust Act legislation. The Trust Act, which already passed in the California Senate, allows local police to not honor ICE detainer requests. This would prevent the deportation of thousands of mostly Mexican immigrants.

Montes also stated that SCIC has been organizing against the police department’s car checkpoints and car impounds, and in support of street vendors. “The police/ICE collaboration causes the detention and deportation of immigrants for minor infractions like traffic violations or street vending, not serious crimes. Many of these police actions are in poor Mexican/Chicano and Black communities – which led to more racial profiling. This leads to distrust of local police for fear of detention and deportation and separation from families,” says Montes.

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.

‘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)