California's "Anti-Arizona Law" Meant to Protect Undocumented Immigrants From Deportation
California is making sure ICE doesn't turn the state into Arizona.
The California State Senate passed a bill Thursday that is being called the "anti-Arizona law" by pro-immigrant activists.
The TRUST Act, as it is officially known, would set higher standards for placing immigration detainers on suspected undocumented immigrants when they are arrested by local police.
California participates in the federal program known as Secure Communities. When local police arrest a suspect he or she is background-checked against the FBI's criminal database to determine if the detainee has a criminal record and is unlawfully present or otherwise removable.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement then decides if it wants to put a "hold" on the detainee, so local cops do not release the individual until he or she is interviewed by ICE.
Ultimately, ICE determines whether to place the person in deportation proceedings based on a number of factors.
The bill still needs the California Assembly's final approval and Governor Jerry Brown's blessing for it to become law.
But if it does become law it would not allow California police to turn over suspected illegal immigrants to ICE unless the person has been convicted of a violent crime.
Ironically, this would put into practice the Obama administration's stated policy of prioritizing the removal of aliens convicted of serious crimes, a policy pro-immigrant activists claim is more lip service than reality.
"[Secure Communities] has burdened our local governments and put even victims and witnesses of crime at risk of deportation, making us all less safe," the bill's main sponsor California Assembly Member Tom Ammiano said in statement.
Though this bill doesn't directly address Senate Bill 1070, it does send a message that California is a more immigrant-friendly state than Arizona, according to Chris Newman, legal director of the Los Angeles-based National Day Laborer Organizing Network.
"Arizona tried treating all undocumented immigrants as criminals, and it cast all immigrants under a cloud of suspicion," Newman stated in a press release on Thursday. " Today California took a step forward down a different path."
Since Secure Communities' activation three years ago, immigration officials have deported more than 75,000 immigrants from California through the program, according to ICE statistics, making California the number one state in removing immigrants via S-Comm, as it is sometimes called.
"Arizona takes the country in the wrong direction [when it] merges [local] police with immigration authorities," NDLON's communications director B. Loewe stated. "Whenever that happens we see police get turned into monsters like [Maricopa County Sheriff Joe] Arpaio."
He added, "So [the TRUST Act] restores the trust Secure Communities destroys [among immigrant communities]."
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