On Monday, the California Senate voted 25-11 to pass AB4, a controversial immigration reform bill known as the TRUST Act. If passed into law, the TRUST Act would limit the role of California law enforcement in federal deportations, which surged to 1.6 million nationwide during President Obama’s first four years in office.
By limiting the types of requests that local and state authorities handle through Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), proponents of the legislation hope to reduce taxpayer resources going toward deportations of individuals without documentation.
TRUST Act author Sen. Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) issued a statement saying that the bill “is of national interest … California is now on its way to being a leader.”
The program has been criticized by civil rights and immigration reform advocates who charge that that the program divides families and makes immigrants fearful of police.
The Secure Communities program has contributed to record numbers of deportations by immigration authorities. In California alone, the program has led to nearly 80,000 deportations.
This isn’t the first time that immigration reform groups have pushed to limit the Secure Communities program. Gov. Jerry Brown (D) vetoed a similar bill last year because it called for local police to hold only those arrested for committing violent felonies. Brown noted in his veto message that the bill didn’t include crimes such as child abuse, drug trafficking, weapons sales and gang activity.
After the veto, Ammiano rewrote the bill, extending the power of authorities to hold undocumented immigrants previously convicted of these crimes while preserving the core of the proposal that called for state and local authorities not to comply with deportation proceedings against those who have not committed major crimes.
Even with these changes, the California District Attorneys Association and the California State Sheriffs’ Association reportedly oppose the revised TRUST Act, claiming it could lead to the release of potentially dangerous individuals.
The California bill is being debated as organized labor increases pressure on President Obama to abandon his deportation policy, which led to 400,000 individuals being forced to leave the U.S. last year.
The Los Angeles Times reports that members of the AFL-CIO, an umbrella labor organization representing 12 million union workers, have renewed calls for President Obama to stop immigrant deportations until the U.S. Senate reform bill is passed into law. The Senate “gang of eight” proposal provides a path to residency and citizenship for the 11 million undocumented individuals currently living in the country.
“When we have a bill for 11 million immigrants to become full Americans, we should not be, in the middle of this, deporting them,” said Tefere Gebre, director of the Orange County Labor Federation at the AFL-CIO Convention in Los Angeles, Calif. this week.
“That America I dreamed about never separated children from their mothers,” Gebre said. “The America I dreamed about did not separate people by saying, ‘You’re legal, you’re illegal.'”