Local police in San Francisco will no longer have to detain undocumented immigrants as part of a federal program by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Opposed to the Secure Communities program, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors gave unanimous approval to legislation that would exempt local law enforcement from enforcing the nationwide program. This program runs fingerprints of the person who has been arrested through an electronic database. ICE can then request for the undocumented immigrants to be detained for possible deportation, when they would normally be released.
The program prevents families and individuals from reporting real crime or incidents of domestic violence in their neighborhoods and communities, because they are too afraid of deportation. A number of immigrants who have been deported as a result of this federal program are not serious criminals or are victims themselves.
According to the latest ICE data from May 2013, 403 undocumented immigrants have been transferred to ICE for deportation since August 2010. According to the Santa Cruz Sentinel, of those 403 people, 151 were non-criminals and 155 committed minor offenses.
The support and approval of this legislation by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors is setting the standard of equal treatment under the law. Even before their day in court, undocumented immigrants could be deported without being convicted of a crime. This violates the basic right of due process — the guarantee of fairness in legal proceedings — that are owed to a person.
Currently sitting on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk is an updated bill, or the Trust Act, which would make the exemption for detainment statewide. This bill could be an important victory for undocumented immigrants in California. Supporters of the bill, including police officers and public officials, echoed how building a relationship of trust, not fear, between undocumented immigrants and local police is important for the safety of those communities.
Signing this bill would set the standard for supporting immigrant communities. City on a Hill Press urges Gov. Brown to protect all residents of the state of California by passing the Trust Act and to promote a positive relationship between immigrant communities and local police.
Gov. Brown vetoed a similar bill last year, stating that the list of serious crimes that would allow for the detainment of immigrants was too short. The previous bill did not make exceptions to certain crimes involving drug trafficking, selling weapons or child abuse. The updated bill passed with amendments that included exceptions for people arrested for serious crimes.
Gov. Brown has been unclear about whether he would support this bill, but the Trust Act would have a significant impact for UCSC, Santa Cruz and all of California. Whether it be for undocumented UCSC students or the greater communities of undocumented residents who pay taxes and deserve protection, this legislation is a step towards providing safer communities.
The Santa Cruz County sheriff held a town hall meeting on Monday to discuss the importance of trust building between immigrant communities and law enforcement. He also highlighted the changed policy for sending fingerprints and reporting to the Secure Communities program. Those who commit offenses such as driving without a license or holding beach bonfires won’t be at risk for deportation.
City on a Hill Press encourages other cities to hold town hall meetings to support immigrant communities and foster positive discussions with local law enforcement. The state of California should follow the examples set by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and Los Angeles Police Department in positively affecting immigrant communities and families, while providing them with a sense of safety and protection from domestic violence.