Earlier this week AB 1081, also known as The TRUST Act, passed out of the Assembly's Public Safety Committee. The bill would allow California counties to opt out of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Secure Communities program, which requires local law enforcement agencies to send the fingerprints of everyone who has been arrested to a central federal database for a check on their immigration status.
The program has been controversial because it has contributed to the deportation of thousands of non-criminals, as reported by the Los Angeles Times and others. From an April 13 report by California Watch's Ryan Gabrielson:
At the heart of Secure Communities is a database that allows local police to check inmates’ legal status by running their fingerprints. When the system makes a match, officers learn a suspect’s entire documented immigration history. They also learn whether ICE wants to place a “hold” on the suspect, which requires the police agency to detain the individual until immigration agents can take custody.
To supporters of increased local immigration enforcement, the program is nothing more than a database at the jails, and does not encourage profiling.
Though still new, Secure Communities helped catch many thousands of illegal immigrants across California.
Since 2009, local law enforcement in California has turned over 71,918 illegal immigrants to ICE through the program, according to federal data. Of those, 35,643 were removed from the United States.
A majority of the illegal immigrants nabbed under Secure Communities were previously convicted of some crime. However, a sizable minority (28 percent) were labeled as “non-criminals” who had no criminal record, the ICE data shows.
In February, nationwide the program removed 2,166 non-criminals. That was significantly more than the number of “level one,” or most serious criminals, that were removed during the month: 1,367
Yesterday I spoke to Gabrielson about Secure Communities and AB 1081, asking him to explain both the program and the legislation. One particular thing he said that stood out: ICE has yet to be able to point to the exact legislation that authorizes it to require local law enforcement to participate in the program.
Listen to the interview below: