Californians took a turn against the Arizonification of immigration policy and took a step toward standards we expect and the oversight we deserve when the state passed the TRUST Act out of its assembly's public safety committee this week.
The modest bill meant to improve public safety, foster transparency, and protect civil rights following the botched expansion of the Secure Communities program, now makes California a national focal point for the next phase of the battles over Arizona-style immigration policies that would convert police into enforcers of our nation's broken, and unjust, immigration laws.
While the federal government sued Arizona over SB 1070 and Obama recently denounced the Georgia copycat, the administration also boasts of deporting more than 1,000,000 people while in office. At the heart of both SB 1070 and the Obama administration's deportation strategy is the dangerous development of drafting local police as an arm of federal immigration enforcement and creating "the poli-migra."
This week former Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano flew to San Francisco to defend the most rapidly expanding version of the poli-migra, her flagship "Secure Communities" deportation program. Though she'd like us to believe that recent criticism is one big "misunderstanding," the outcry is based on the policies she's repeatedly championed and piloted in her home state.
What the now Secretary of Homeland Security calls a misunderstanding, Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California describes as the Department "essentially lying to local government and to members of Congress." Lofgren received support from Rep. Menendez for her call to investigate the "dissembling and deceiving" method used by the Department of Homeland Security to rope localities into the federal program.
As Congress launches its investigation and states grapple with the extra burden of imposed migrant witch hunts, it is everyday families who are caught in the middle. This debate is not a theoretical or political matter for people like Norma, who went from being a domestic violence victim straight into deportation proceedings after her call to police for help.
As the LA Times recently reported,
More than once, Norma recalls, she yearned to dial 911 when her partner hit her. But the undocumented mother of a U.S.-born toddler was too fearful of police and too broken of spirit to do so.
In October, she finally worked up the courage to call police -- and paid a steep price.
Officers who responded found her sobbing, with a swollen lower lip. But a red mark on her alleged abuser's cheek prompted police to book them both into the San Francisco County Jail while investigators sorted out the details.
With that, Norma was swept into the wide net of Secure Communities, a federal program launched in 2008 with the stated goal of identifying and deporting more illegal immigrants "convicted of serious crimes."
It's to protect people like Norma that Assemblyman Tom Ammiano introduced the TRUST Act. The Act would reign in the unregulated program and let cities choose whether or not to participate. For those who seek to opt-in, the California bill would require the safeguards one would expect in the 21st century; protocol to prevent racial profiling and protections for victims of crimes and juveniles. At a minimum, the bill would bring transparency to a program that has been shrouded in secrecy and lies.
Commenting on the proliferation of local focus on federal immigration, Austin, TX Police Chief Acevedo said, "I'd rather spend my time going after serious criminals than going after day laborers at the Home Depot... These types of laws are misguided and counterproductive."
President Obama may call together as many advocates to discuss immigration reform to the White House as he desires, but if he truly desired action on immigration he could start with picking up a pen and ending programs that ensnare police in immigration enforcement and imposing a moratorium on deportations today. Until then, the battle of Arizona will take place in more than the federal courts. It will be in each of our counties, states and city halls.