CA Senate committee approves TRUST Act in face of rising “S-Comm” concerns

Pub date June 14, 2011
WriterSarah Phelan
SectionPolitics Blog

The California Senate Public Safety Committee approved Assemblymember Tom Ammiano’s TRUST Act, (AB 1081) today in a 5-2 vote, in face of rising concerns about a troubled federal fingerprinting and deportation program known as Secure Communities (S-Comm). The TRUST Act would reform California’s participation in S-Comm, which has increasingly come under fire for undermining public safety and operating without transparency or local oversight. Ammiano’s AB 1081 assures that local governments have the ability to opt out of the program and it sets basic standards for jurisdictions that choose to participate. The bill now heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration.

San Francisco Police Commissioner Angela Chan, a staff attorney with the Asian Law Caucus, says  that immigrants rights activists are calling on California Gov. Jerry Brown and Attorney General Kamala Harris to suspend S-Comm entirely, for now. These calls come in the wake of New York decision to suspend the troubled program, Illinois’s decision to terminate the program, Massachusetts’ decision to refuse to sign the Department of Homeland Security’s proposed S-Comm agreement, and the Inspector General’s announcement that it plans to investigate S-Comm allegations this summer.
“But if S-Comm eventually becomes unsuspended, that’s where the TRUST Act would come into place,” Chan said.

At today’s hearing in Sacramento, retired Sacramento Police Chief Arturo Venegas testified in support of the TRUST Act, calling S-Comm a “Trojan horse,” thanks to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE’s) alleged misrepresentation of S-Comm to law enforcement. And community leader Renee Saucedo read the testimony of Norma, a domestic violence victim whose calls for help landed her in deportation proceedings thanks to S-Comm.

Tuesday’s vote comes on the heels of a growing firestorm of congressional criticism of the program, which reportedly has an annual budget of $200 million. And the latest statistics from ICE show that of all the states, California has deported the most immigrants under S-Comm. As of April 2011, California had deported 41, 833 individuals since it began phasing in its participation in S-Comm in May 2009. These figures include 12,133 folks (30 percent of deportees) who did not have a criminal record. And if you add those with low-level offenses to the non-criminal category, the percentage grows to 70 percent. Texas was in second place after California, with 27,000 S-Comm deportations.