Busy week for immigration reform advocates

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On Tuesday, April 26, the California Assembly’s Public Safety Committee holds a hearing on AB 1081, Assemblymember Tom Ammiano’s Transparency and Responsibility Using State Tools (TRUST) Act. The TRUST Act seeks to allow local governments to opt out of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE's) controversial “Secure Communities” program and to set standards for jurisdictions that chose to participate in S-Comm.

Also on Tuesday, Congressmember Luis Gutierrez kicks off his “Change Takes Courage” immigrant rights tour in seven California cities. Gutierrez lands in San Francisco Wednesday, April 27, and the Bay Area immigrant community and LGBT leaders will host him on the steps of City Hall, as Gutierrez asks President Obama to stop the record number of deportations of immigrant families and students that have already occurred under the Obama administration.

Joining Ammiano in Sacramento on Tuesday as co-sponsors of the TRUST Act are Assemblymembers Gil Cedillo (D-LA) and Bill Monning (D- Carmel) and Sen. Leland Yee (D-SF). Endorsers include 80 organizations, local governments and elected officials, including the Santa Clara and Santa Cruz County Boards, San Francisco Sheriff Michael Hennessey and retired Sacramento Police Chief Arturo Venegas, and civil rights and faith groups, including the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence, the California Labor Federation, the San Bernardino Catholic Diocese and Equality California.

SF Sheriff Michael Hennessey blew the whistle on S-Comm last May, but was unable to stop the feds from activating the program in San Francisco last June. And the most recent batch of S-Comm statistics show that San Francisco, once famed as a sanctuary city, now ranks in the top 38 counties nationwide that deport “non-criminal aliens,” which is ICE-speak for immigrants whose primary misstep is that they are in the country without the requisite paperwork.

Ammiano's Trust Act hearing comes just days after Congressmember Zoe Lofgren (D- San Jose) called for an investigation into the conduct of ICE officials around advising local municipalities whether they are required to participate in ICE’s S-Comm program.

"You can’t have a government department essentially lying to local government and to members of Congress. This is not OK,” Lofgren said April 22, following the disclosure of hundreds of ICE documents that allegedly show that the agency has been giving intentionally contradictory and misleading information about S-Comm to local officials.

“From then-Attorney General Brown on down, it’s painfully clear ICE deceived Californians about S-Comm,” said Angela Chan, a staff attorney with the Asian Law Caucus. “That’s unacceptable behavior for a government agency in a democracy.”

Advocates hope that Ammiano’s TRUST Act will restore balance and accountability to the nation’s otherwise broken immigration system. They charge that S-Comm’s misleading focus, over-broad reach and lack of transparency have eroded trust between police and immigrant communities, making victims and witnesses to crimes reluctant to come forward.

The TRUST Act would make S-Comm an “opt-in” program so local governments can tailor their participation based on local needs.

The bill would also set safeguards for municipalities that do elect to participate in S-Comm to guard against racial profiling and would ensure that children and domestic violence survivors are not swept up by S-Comm.

The TRUST act also upholds the right to a day in court by only reporting for deportation individuals convicted - not merely accused - of crimes.

Tuesday’s hearing will be followed by Congressman Luis Gutierrez’s Wednesday appearance in San Francisco, which the African Advocacy Network, Asian Law Caucus, Central American Resource Center, Chinese for Affirmative Action, People Organized to Demand Environmental and Economic Rights, Out4Immigration, San Francisco Interfaith Coalition on Immigration, and Dolores Street Community Services sponsored.

Sups David Campos, John Avalos, and David Chiu will join Gutierrez and their message to President Obama is laid out in the following press statement:

“We need administrative relief to uphold the values of opportunity, justice, and human rights for all to move our country forward. With the stroke of a pen, President Obama could put a halt to the rapidly increasing deportations that are taking place. We need to stop deporting parents and ripping apart all families, including same-sex partners. We need to stop deporting students who would have been eligible for the DREAM ACT. Last year, the U.S. deported an estimated 400,000 immigrants, the highest number of deportations per year in the history of our nation. We must allow our counties to opt out of  “S-Comm” (Secure Communities), which is making our communities less secure, and we support Congressman Gutierrez in these courageous requests. Immigrants are part of the fabric of our communities, and we need to fix our immigration system so everyone who lives here can continue to live as a full member of society without constant fear of safety, security, and livelihood being jeopardized at any moment.”

 
 

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