Eastbay Assemblymember Rob Bonta, joined by immigrant, civil rights, and labor group, is backing legislation to address controversial deportation tactics by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that continue to thrust local law enforcement into the role of federal deportation agents.
The TRUTH Act (Transparent Review of Unjust Transfers and Holds), addresses growing concern that ICE’s new “Priority Enforcement Program” and similar initiatives are replicating the failures of the “Secure Communities” deportation program—a program that was widely discredited after separating tens of thousands of family members across the state and damaging public safety.
“Immigrant communities form an integral part of our state’s social fabric. When ICE coerces local law enforcement to carry out deportations, family members are separated and community trust destroyed, and undocumented witnesses and victims are afraid to step forward or seek help,” said Assemblymember Bonta, speaking last Friday.
“The TRUST Act was supposed to protect us from the most flagrant abuses, but ICE has been circumventing the intent of the law,” said Bonta. “With the TRUTH Act, we are requiring much needed transparency from ICE, making sure local communities have a voice, and creating clear guidelines to guard against abuses.”
Joining Bonta was Pedro Figueroa, the San Francisco car theft victim who was turned over to ICE for deportation late last year and detained for months after seeking the police’s help. His story underscores the continuing abuse by ICE.
In Mr. Figueroa’s case, ICE requested that local law enforcement notify them of personal information, such as release time and location from custody, in order to be waiting to take him into federal custody.
The TRUTH Act establishes a transparent process, including community engagement, prior to local law enforcement participation in ICE deportation programs. Local law enforcement must then reach an agreement with their city council or county supervisors, dictating the terms and conditions of any participation in such programs, and compliance with the state’s TRUST Act.
The TRUTH Act builds upon California’s TRUST Act, signed by Governor Brown in 2013. Prior to the TRUST Act, ICE requested local jails hold community members until they could be picked up for deportation. Following Governor Brown’s signature, community members were protected from such holds unless they had committed certain more serious crimes.
From tamale vendors to domestic violence survivors transferred to ICE for deportation, the holds caused significant suffering and further weakened community-police relations as ICE sought to have local police officers and sheriff’s deputies help it carry out mass deportation.
After TRUST went into effect, a federal court found all immigration holds federally unconstitutional, but ICE has continued to circumvent the protections of TRUST by requesting local law enforcement notify them of personal information, such as release time and location. The TRUTH Act closes that loophole, and brings accountability to the system.
Sponsors of the bill include Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus, California Immigrant Policy Center, and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network.