California Works to Become a National Model for Immigration LawsOn Thursday, July 5, the California State Senate passed Assembly Bill 1081 also referred to as the TRUST Act. AB1081 states that a police officer can only refer people convicted of serious felonies to immigration officials. Lower-level offenders can no longer be detained simply on their undocumented status. Now that this bill has been passed along party lines, it will move to be reviewed by the state Assembly.
The passing of AB1081 comes just a week after the U.S. Supreme Court decided to uphold a provision of Arizona's anti-illegal immigration law, Senate Bill 1070, that allows a police officer to check a person's immigration status if they suspect the person to be undocumented. Proponents of AB1081 feel that this new bill will rebuild trust among community members while the law currently standing in Arizona that allows local law enforcement to check immigration papers on individuals who have been arrested only wastes resources and destroys trust.
Tom Ammiano, a Democratic Assemblyman from San Francisco, wrote AB1081 and is pleased that California passed the bill on Thursday. He feels this sends a message that California cannot afford to become like the state of Arizona. Ammiano's bill has been referred to as the "anti-Arizona bill" because it goes against the idea that a police officer can demand a person show them their immigration papers simply based upon the person's appearance. Proponents of the TRUST Act feel that upholding this law in Arizona will lead to racial profiling and erode trust among members of the community.
While the recent approval of AB1081 has drawn attention to how it relates to the immigration issues in Arizona, the TRUST Act was initially written to counteract the federal program called Secure Communities. This program allows the fingerprints of people arrested nationwide to be shared with immigration authorities. The Obama Administration has stated that they will implement this program nationwide in 2013 and manage it on a federal level. The Administration also plans to revoke contracts that would have allowed state and local government agencies to manage the program themselves.
The National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) supports the Trust Act because they feel that it separates California from the immigration laws that treat all undocumented workers as criminals and in turn, place all immigrants under a cloud of suspicion. The NDLON said in a statement to Fox News Latino that Secure Communities "has led to the incarceration and deportation of tens of thousands of undocumented residents in California who have committed no crimes."
"The TRUST Act is a common sense proposal that disentangles California from broken immigration laws, it protects public safety, and it spares taxpayers the expense of incarcerating Americans in Waiting," Chris Newman, NDLON's Director of Legal Programs, said according to Fox News Latino.
The Trust Act has caused a sharp divide among people on both sides of the immigration debate. Proponents of the bill feel that this is a positive step against current laws and programs being upheld while critics fear that these new laws will only protect illegal immigrants and make it harder for law enforcement officers to do their job.
"The vote recognizes that S-Communities is sabotaging our public safety," Ammiano said according to the website examiner.com. "The TRUST Act is the solution we need to begin rebuilding the confidence that our local law enforcement worked so hard to build, but that ICE has shattered."
Opponents of the AB1081 say that this bill will only turn California into a haven for illegal immigrants or a "sanctuary state", a term given to states that are known to have laws in place that protect immigrants who are in the country illegally. However, those who support this legislation feel that California will become a model for other states concerning immigration issues and expect the bill to eventually make it to the Governor's desk to be signed.
Those who support the Secure Communities programs and Arizona's SB1070 feel that local police have as much responsibility as the federal government to enforce immigration laws, and that the approval of the TRUST Act will only lead to confusion among law enforcement officers in California. Local police officers in California will be in the awkward position of having to decide whether to adhere to state law or to the laws dictated by the federal government.
Regardless of the confusion anticipated between the enforcement of state and federal laws, proponents of the TRUST Act feel this legislation will serve as a national model for eliminating the ethnic profiling that is an inherent component in both the Secure Communities program and Arizona's SB1070.