SAN FRANCISCO -- The California Catholic Conference and the Bishops of California announced their support of a new anti-deportation bill days before the legislation is put to a committee vote.
The Transparency and Responsibility Using State Tools, or TRUST Act, will be voted on Tuesday by the Senate Public Safety Committee. Introduced by Democratic Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, it would change the way local law enforcement agencies participate in the controversial federal immigration program, Secure Communities.
Under Secure Communities, local police are required to share fingerprints of arrested individuals with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in order to check them against its immigration databases. ICE uses this program as a tool to find and deport undocumented or otherwise “removable” immigrants. Opponents of the program, including immigrant rights advocates, say it raises serious public safety and civil liberties concerns. Despite the controversy, the federal government is planning to implement the program nationwide by next year.
As of March 31, 2012, more than 70,000 have been deported from California under Secure Communities. About 70 percent of them either had no criminal convictions or had been apprehended as a result of minor offenses such as traffic violations or selling ice cream without a permit.
If enacted, the TRUST Act would set a minimum standard for local governments not to submit to ICE’s requests to detain people for deportation unless the individual has a serious or violent felony conviction. The legislation aims to guide against profiling and wrongful detention of citizens and crime victims and witnesses.
Speaking on behalf the California Catholic Conference, the Bishops of California and the Archdiocese of San Francisco, Bishop William Justice said Thursday that Secure Communities was “undermining the hard-earned trust between our immigrant communities and local police.” The TRUST Act, he said, would help rebuild that trust and is therefore critical to maintaining public safety and protecting immigrant families, whether they are undocumented or not. He emphasized that this act is “the least we can do for immigrant families.”
Proponents of the TRUST Act hope the endorsement will increase the chances of passing the act, especially since California Governor Jerry Brown is a Catholic himself.
Emmanuelle LeaI-Santillan, a community organizer with San Francisco Organizing Project, said he thought the act would pass, “because we're talking about innocent people here.”
“We're talking about deporting victims and witnesses to crime,” he said. “The immigrant community has been criminalized enough. This act should be passed so that we can focus on more important issues.”