Assemblymember Tom Ammiano says that statewide support is building for AB 1081 (the TRUST Act), which would give local governments the right to opt-out of the controversial Secure Communities program.
As the Guardian previously reported, ten months after ICE’s controversial S-Comm program was activated in San Francisco, our “sanctuary city” ranks among the top 38 counties nationwide deporting  “non-criminal aliens.”
“Unlikely allies are lining up behind this bill because ICE misled the public about S-Comm, whose real focus is more spin than safety,” Ammiano said in a press release today. “In fact, seven in ten Californians deported under S-Comm had committed no crime or were picked up for minor offenses like traffic violations. The program is ruining trust between immigrant communities and the police. But here in California, we can do better. This bill is a practical solution that lets local governments have a say and restores some balance to this dysfunctional system.”
Joining Ammiano as co-sponsors of the TRUST (Transparency and Responsibility Using State Tools) Act are Assemblymembers Gil Cedillo and Bill Monning and Sen. Leland Yee. And the act, which is billed as a pro-safety and pro-transparency proposal, already has the support of over 50 organizations and a slew of elected local officials.
These officials include San Francisco Sheriff Mike Hennessey who blew the whistle on the program last May, when federal authorities privately told local law enforcement agencies that S-Comm was going live in San Francisco in June 2010. At the time, there had been no public hearings on the proposed program, which links fingerprints taken when folks are booked at county jails with federal and international databases—in other words, before folks charged with crimes have had their day in court.
A press release from Ammiano’ s office states that S-Comm’s “misleading focus, over-broad reach and lack of transparency” has eroded trust between police and immigrant communities and sparked considerable open government concerns ---problems the TRUST Act aims to fix.
In addition to allowing municipalities to opt-out, the TRUST Act would also sets basic safeguards for local governments that participate in the program to guard against racial profiling, protect the rights of children and domestic violence survivors. And it would uphold the right to a day in court by only reporting for deportation individuals convicted, not merely accused, of crimes.
“Under S-Comm, a desperate call for help can quickly turn into a nightmare situation for victims of domestic violence,” said Tara Shabazz, Executive Director of the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence. “We’ve seen victims of abuse reported for deportation from San Francisco to Lodi, California. This bill will protect abuse victims and remove an important barrier to reaching out for help, and we are proud to support it.”
Ammiano’s office says that these serious public safety and civil liberties concerns have pushed local governments to seek a way out of the program, imposed on communities with no transparency or opportunity for local oversight. They note that the Santa Clara Board of Supervisors unanimously requested to opt out of S-Comm program in September 2010, but after months of confusion, ICE refused to honor the county's request.
“The Federal Government forced this program on my jail without my consent," SF Sheriff Michael Hennessey said. “By allowing local governments to opt out of this flawed program, AB 1081 will help law enforcement win back some trust with immigrant communities. That, in turn, will help improve public safety for everyone."
“The TRUST Act raises this unregulated and inaccurate program to California’s standards and ensures transparency and accountability through clear data reporting requirements for local jurisdictions opting to participate in S-Comm,” said Chris Newman, National Day Laborer Organizing Network's legal director.
AB 1081 will be heard in the Assembly Committee on Public Safety on Tuesday, April 26 at 9 a.m. in State Capitol Room 126.