A new law in the state of California has resulted in fewer immigrants being transferred to federal officials for deportation after an arrest is made by state police. This law, known as the Trust Act, was implemented in January of this year and requires “law enforcement agencies to more quickly release those without serious criminal records rather than hold them so federal officials can take them into custody for deportation proceedings.”
The legislation was strongly encouraged by immigration advocates and the law is already decreasing the number of deportations in California. This is welcomed news to President Obama, who has recently come under fire for the high number of deportations that have occurred during his administration.
Up until the most recent numbers, California was ranked third for the highest number of deportations under U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement's (ICE) Secure Communities program. The program requires fingerprints of arrestees to be screened to check for any potential immigration violations.
Those who followed this law in the early stages, agreed that it would help to decrease the number of immigrants being held for possible deportation. However, many are surprised by just how significant this decrease has turned out to be.
In order to get the required numbers, the Associated Press (AP) surveyed sheriff's departments in more than 20 counties in California. It made sense to survey sheriff's departments because they are responsible for the majority of bookings. Not every county provided the AP with data for the first two months of 2014. The counties that did, however, supplied the AP with enough data to come to the determination that there was a 44% drop in the number of deportations. Those that were able to supply the AP with data included Los Angeles, San Diego, Riverside, and San Bernardino Counties. These are four of the five largest counties in the state.
So, what do these numbers really mean? “It suggests that before the Trust Act went into effect, at least in California, Secure Communities was having a most significant impact on relatively minor criminal offenders, as opposed to the gang bangers the president was saying were being targeted," said Kevin Johnson, dean of the University of California, Davis School of Law.
Although these numbers appear promising, there are still some sheriff's departments that are not yet complying with the new law. As a senior staff attorney at the San Francisco-based Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Angela Chan has seen numerous reports of cases where immigrants should have been released in accordance with the Trust Act but were not.
Under the law, immigrants who are on trial for serious criminal charges or with substantial criminal records can be held on immigration grounds, but those charged with less severe crimes can be released on bail or after serving a given amount of time. With the passing of this legislation, the state of California was added to a list that already included Connecticut and more than a dozen jurisdictions that decline requests for immigration holds. Lawmakers in Massachusetts are also considering this type of legislation.