Soapbox

California can take big step to stop deportation abuses

Jorge Field of Immigration and Customs Enforcement walks toward a raid in Riverside last August.
Jorge Field of Immigration and Customs Enforcement walks toward a raid in Riverside last August. Los Angeles Times file

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court dashed the hopes of millions of immigrants. With a tied “decision,” the court sided with anti-immigrant states and froze new programs that would have brought temporary protection from deportation to millions of immigrants.

But last week, California took an important step in the opposite direction. The Senate Public Safety Committee passed Assembly Bill 2792, the Transparent Review of Unjust Transfers and Holds (TRUTH) Act, that will guard against deportation abuses.

How would this bill help immigrant communities? Consider the story of Pedro Figueroa of San Francisco. Just before Christmas, his 8-year-old daughter Leilani watched tearfully as immigration agents whisked him away.

She and her mother were shocked. The Figueroa family had called the police for help finding their stolen car. The police found the stolen car and contacted the family. But officers also contacted U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Families are being torn apart every day by flawed immigration policies. For example, Jose Alvarez from Long Beach, the father of six children who are U.S. citizens, was deported after a traffic stop for a broken headlight.

All too often, these incidents happen amid a shroud of secrecy. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is inserting itself into the fragile relationship between local police and immigrant communities by requesting that police take on the role of federal immigration agents.

Immigration “holds” in local jails are unconstitutional, but ICE skirts the law by asking police to inform them when immigrants are about to be released so they can be waiting outside.

The damage to our communities has been tremendous. Parents and children are being swept away from their families. Trust in law enforcement is disappearing.

AB 2792 would bring transparency and accountability to ICE’s dealings with police and sheriffs, and ensure that immigrants aren’t caught in its web. It would give the entire community a voice by requiring local law enforcement to reach agreement with their elected officials through a public process before signing up for one of ICE’s deportation programs.

California has the opportunity to lead with this sensible immigration policy that preserves community trust.

The opposition has demonized immigrants. Hiding behind insults and stereotypes, it wants to deport all 11 million undocumented immigrants and build a massive wall along our southern border.

Immigrants are an integral part of our community and our state and have come to California for the same reasons as everyone else – to build a better life for themselves and their families and contribute to their communities. We are the nation’s most diverse and forward-thinking state, and the TRUTH Act is about who we are and who we want to be.

Do we want to be a state that punishes victims, tears families apart and destroys our communities’ trust in law enforcement? Or do we want to be a state that builds trust, provides transparency and values fairness and justice for all?

Rob Bonta, an Oakland Democrat, represents the 18th Assembly District and can be contacted at Assemblymember.Bonta@assembly.ca.gov.

Pablo Alvarado is executive director of the Los Angeles-based National Day Laborer Organizing Network and can be contacted at pabloalvarado@ndlon.org.

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