‘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.