A bill that would require local jail officials to release some illegal immigrants from custody has concerned Riverside County Sheriff Stan Sniff.
In a letter to Governor Jerry Brown Friday, the sheriff is calling for a veto of AB 1081, otherwise known as the Trust Act.
If signed by the governor, would prohibit local law enforcement agencies from detaining an illegal immigrant for deportation at the request of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) if that person is eligible for release from criminal custody.
Sniff wrote that enforcing U.S. immigration law is a federal responsibility with “shortfalls.”
“In the decade after 9/11, and in response to shortfalls in our national Homeland Security, we have honed close partnerships between federal, state, and local enforcement that this [bill] now directly undermines,” Sniff wrote. “In addition, law enforcement agencies have executed legal agreements that are directly impacted by this bill, and we potentially place at risk of cancelation or repayment, millions of dollars in federal grant funds of all types where we certify compliance with federal laws. Or worse, we face years of protracted legal disputes, which will waste scarce county funds that are already very constrained.
“For these reasons,” Sniff continued, “I oppose Assembly Bill 1081 and respectfully request that you veto this measure.”
The state Assembly passed the bill in May; the state Senate passed it in early July.
The bill’s lead author Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), said, “[The] vote signals to the nation that California cannot afford .”
“The bill ... limits unjust and onerous detentions for deportation in local jails of community members who do not pose a threat to public safety," he said.
The immigration detentions "are a drain on local resources" because state and local law enforcement agencies are not reimbursed by the feds for the , according to the legislation's text.
AB 1081 would still allow immigration detainers to be placed on people who have not been released from criminal custody or have a serious or violent felony conviction.
Ammiano contends the Trust Act was introduced in February 2011 as a response to the federal "Secure Communities" or S-Comm deportation program, which the assemblyman describes as a parallel to . Under S-Comm, the FBI automatically sends fingerprints to ICE to check against its immigration databases. If the checks show a person is in the country illegally,
Angela F. Chan, senior staff attorney at the Asian Law Caucus, a nonprofit civil rights organization located in San Francisco, said S-Comm encourages racial profiling by law enforcement.
"About 76 percent of the 2,460 residents deported under the S-Comm program from Riverside County are individuals without criminal records or those arrested for lesser offenses, including misdemeanors and traffic violations," Chan said.
As of early July, 72,000 people in California had been removed from the country under S-Comm and seven in 10 were deported with either no conviction or for minor offenses, Ammiano contends.
But ICE defends S-Comm.
“Secure Communities has proven to be the single most valuable tool in allowing the agency to eliminate the ad hoc approach of the past and focus on criminal aliens and repeat immigration law violators,” according to ICE Western Regional Communications Director Virginia Kice.
“Since ICE implemented Secure Communities in Oct. 2008 [through April 30, 2012, the initiative has resulted in the removal of 189,744 persons [nationwide]. Nearly 75 percent of those individuals [141,005] had prior criminal convictions,” Kice said. ( to read about ICE's defense of its policy.)