In a letter to Governor Jerry Brown, otherwise known as the Trust Act. On the other hand, actor Martin Sheen today joined 22 members of the California Democratic Congressional Delegation in supporting the legislation.
“Too many men and women who are not guilty of any crime have been caught in the web of a program meant to help our nation prioritize deportations. … the real story of why we need the Trust Act lies in its human cost to decent men and women pushed out of our country for little more than trying to make ends meet,” Sheen wrote in a Sept. 24 letter to the governor.
AB 1081 is sitting on the governor's desk. If he signs it, the law would require local jail officials to release illegal immigrants from custody if they are eligible for release from criminal custody. Currently, local law enforcement can place “holds” or “detainers” on illegal immigrants in order to have them deported at the request of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), the AB 1081's lead author, contends the Trust Act “limits unjust and onerous detentions for deportation in local jails of community members who do not pose a threat to public safety.”
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.
But Sheriff Sniff said that enforcing U.S. immigration law is a federal responsibility with “shortfalls,” and therefore partnerships have been forged that would be in jeopardy if AB 1081 is signed.
“In the decade after 9/11, and in response to shortfalls in our national Homeland Security, we have honed close partnerships between federal, state, and local enforcement that this [bill] now directly undermines,” Sniff wrote to the governor last month. “In addition, law enforcement agencies have executed legal agreements that are directly impacted by this bill, and we potentially place at risk of cancelation or repayment, millions of dollars in federal grant funds of all types where we certify compliance with federal laws. Or worse, we face years of protracted legal disputes, which will waste scarce county funds that are already very constrained.
“For these reasons,” Sniff continued, “I oppose Assembly Bill 1081 and respectfully request that you veto this measure.”
Ammiano 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.
As of early July, 72,000 people in California had been removed from the country under S-Comm and seven in 10 were deported with either no conviction or for minor offenses, Ammiano contends.
“… California cannot afford to be another Arizona,” he said.
But ICE defends S-Comm.
“Secure Communities has proven to be the single most valuable tool in allowing the agency to eliminate the ad hoc approach of the past and focus on criminal aliens and repeat immigration law violators,” according to ICE Western Regional Communications Director Virginia Kice.
“Since ICE implemented Secure Communities in Oct. 2008 [through April 30, 2012, the initiative has resulted in the removal of 189,744 persons [nationwide]. Nearly 75 percent of those individuals [141,005] had prior criminal convictions,” Kice said. (Click here to read about ICE's defense of its policy.)
Sheen and other Trust Act supporters have not been swayed by these arguments.
“By setting limits for California law enforcement agencies on when to honor federal immigration detainer requests, [AB 1081] restores the intention of the federal “Secure Communities” program, which has done more to tear apart families than to make us safer or more prosperous,” Sheen wrote to the governor. “Because Congress refuses to act on immigration reform, states face pressure to make vital decisions. Inclusive solutions like the Trust Act are the right answer. As a son of immigrants, I’m offended by laws like those passed in Arizona that threaten our proud immigrant tradition. I urge you to sign the Trust Act.”