New Wave of Local Intiatives Push Back Against Secure Communities
California TRUST Act, DC Bill Set New ‘Commonsense’ Trend 7.10.2012. Washington, DC.
Days after the California senate passed a “Post- Arizona SB1070” bill called the TRUST act, and on the day the Washington DC council is signed a similar bill (Bill 19-585) into law, more than twelve cities launched efforts to develop local policies that restore the trust in law enforcement damaged by the Department of Homeland Security’s coercive “Secure Communities” deportation program. Groups are calling for an end to the program and urging local officials to join a trend of municipalities led by Cook County, IL, California, and Washington, DC to counter the criminalization of immigrants, to protect against racial profiling, and to prevent the wrongful extended incarceration of residents for the sole purpose of deportation by setting commonsense standards for how to respond to immigration authority’s voluntary hold requests.
Newly released FOIA documents illustrate that new policies in Cook County, IL, Santa Clara, California, and several municipalities are acting on solid legal grounds. While state laws seeking to regulate immigration in Arizona, Alabama, and elsewhere have been generally found to be unconstitutionally preempted and violate civil rights, local legislation to limit the effect of failed Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s failed deportation programs is clearly permissible.
The restoring trust effort seeks common-sense local solutions that ensure federal immigration enforcement will not undermine public safety. California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, sponsor of AB1081, the TRUST Act, explains, “California’s TRUST Act will make the state a model for transparency in the way local authorities cooperate with federal immigration authorities. It will remove the fear from interactions between local police and immigrant communities and by doing so will make our communities safer.”
Ron Hampton, Executive Director Blacks in Law Enforcement in America, added that from law enforcement’s perspective, “The bottom line is that ICE’s Secure Communities program is incompatible with community policing. Policing relies on partnerships with the communities served. It’s foolish to sever those relationships in order to enforce civil immigration laws. Police officers must create relationships to stop and prevent crime by gaining people’s trust. Secure Communities shatters their ability to do that. The federal government should not coerce local law enforcement to do the federal government’s job at a time of scarce resources, and certainly not at the cost of public safety. The federal government should follow common sense and heed the calls of law enforcement professionals and of local and congressional officials and finally terminate this failed deportation program.”
As seen in Arizona where immigration policies have created a humanitarian crisis, how localities respond to wrongful deportation is at its heart a moral question. Cardinal Mahoney, Archbishop Emeritus of Los Angeles, says, “Our primary concern is the human dignity of immigrant brothers and sisters. What ICE has done is created an enormous feeling of fear and threat throughout the immigrant community. Because of “Secure Communities” immigrants are even terrified to call police when they’re a victim of a crime because they’re afraid they’ll be deported. Immigrants can be so valuable to keeping our communities safe but are afraid to do so. We must seek anything that can be done to diminish that fear and increase respect for the dignity of all people.”
Jesus Garcia, Cook County Commissioner and an early leader in restoring trust, explains, “The Sheriff of Cook County was detaining people who were in custody for small infractions of the law, namely traffic related matters. [It] was resulting in placing them in deportation, causing pain and suffering to many families. The practice was resulting in an increase in racial profiling in the County. As we researched the issue, we found out that the belief that the ICE requests were mandatory was false. Local law enforcement was being bullied into responding to ICE detainer requests. ICE detainers are in fact voluntary not mandatory. We enacted an ordinance last September whereby the County of Cook ended all cooperation with ICE detainer requests unless they had a warrant as is the normal practice. Those in custody could, like anyone else arrested under the law, secure a bond and seek their release. There have been efforts to scare people and play on fears [but] as we have informed people, what is at stake here is ensuring the constitutional guarantees of all people in the County. We will not honor ICE detainers because they are not founded on constitutional practices and put our County at a liability if we were to hold people without being required to do so.”
On a tele-briefing announcing the week of action, Maria Poblano, mother of four in Florida, explained the impact Secure communities has had on her family. “On March 6, my husband and I took our son to the emergency room. On our return home, a police officer stopped the car and started our nightmare. My husband was arrested and was taken from me crying in front of our children. He was placed into deportation proceedings as a result of the Secure Communities program and now has a court date in October. How is it possible that we’re in this situation for taking our children to the hospital, for loving our children and taking care of our family? S-Comm has caused us to suffer both emotionally and economically. I hope they’ll stop this program because there are so many families like mine in Florida and other states. It only destroys families and leaves us more insecure.”
Leaders are calling upon local elected officials to take their own initiative to turn the tide against the broken immigration and detention system by enacting local policies that draw a bright line between local police and civil immigration enforcement.
As part of the initiative, groups launched a new website www.restoringtrusttogether.org as a resource for faith leaders, local elected leaders, law enforcement leaders, and other concerned stakeholders.