This weekend, Governor Brown chose to veto the California TRUST Act (AB 1081). In doing so, the Governor has put his power behind the divisive “Secure Communities” program, or “S-Comm,” which has horrifically impacted our families, safety, and communities in the United States since its implementation. The Governor is backing policies which have torn apart families, left children without a parent or caregiver, and imprisoned and deported individuals who may have had a path to citizenship or other path to gaining legal status in the United States. The National Lawyers Guild San Francisco Bay Area Chapter (NLGSF) condemns the Governor’s decision.
Since 2009, S-Comm has asked local law enforcement across the United States to impose federal immigration laws by sharing fingerprint information from people taken into custody. In effect, when someone contacts a local police officer, they might as well be contacting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) since that fingerprint information is automatically transferred to ICE from local police departments and checked against federal databases. Undocumented persons are then placed in ICE-holds at county jails where ICE sends agents to take custody of those individuals. This happens before an individual is formally charged with a crime; and in many cases these individuals never would be charged or even convicted of any violation.
As a result, in 2011 alone, over 46,000 United States children were left orphaned. Of these children, at least 5,100 were forced into foster care as a result of their parents being detained or deported. In California, more than 75,000 residents have been deported to a foreign country as a result of our federal policies. Within California, the counties surrounding San Francisco and Los Angeles experienced the greatest number of incarcerations and deportations as a result of this policy. And immigration detention is currently at its highest point in U.S. history.
By his veto, Governor Brown is supporting this division of our communities and families. He is also supporting, in this instance, racial profiling, as Latino men and other young men of color are disproportionately affected. According to a study released by the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy and UC Berkeley, Latinos have made up a disproportionate 93% of those detained through S-Comm, though they account for only 75% of the undocumented population in the U.S.
Contrary to ICE’s assurances, those deported after being apprehended through S-Comm are not serious criminals or threats to our safety. In fact, ICE holds or detainers pursuant to S-Comm, are routinely imposed on individuals without any criminal convictions or whose charges and cases are dismissed. About 74% of individuals incarcerated and deported are low-level offenders or have come into contact with police authorities with charges that were later dropped.
Had Governor Brown signed the TRUST Act, law enforcement would not hold individuals who would otherwise be released from criminal custody simply because there was an ICE hold. It would have ensured that local governments would not be forced to use local resources to enforce federal immigration law unless individuals were convicted of a serious or violent felony, as our federal laws intend. The Act would have strengthened our communities and bolstered public safety.
Despite the TRUST Act having passed both houses of the California Legislature, Governor Brown chose to veto it. The Governor must hear from all Californians who care about human rights, and keeping our communities safe and secure, that we are disappointed with his decision. The NLGSF will continue to do our part to ensure that irresponsible and harmful policies, like S-Comm, are resisted. We hope Governor Brown will eventually join us.