Sacramento, CA, July 14, 2021 – Late Tuesday, the California State Senate’s Public Safety Committee passed the VISION Act (AB 937), authored by Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo, by a vote of 4-1. The bill, which has garnered strong support from over 100 organizations, now heads to the Senate’s appropriations committee — the final stop before reaching the Senate floor. Yesterday’s vote came hours after the Los Angeles County board of Supervisors, which adopted a similar policy last year, passed a resolution urging the state of California to follow suit.
The VISION Act would ensure that once a person has earned their release from state prison or local jail, they are not transferred to abusive and possibly deadly ICE detention, and instead are able to return to their loved ones. This includes a person who has completed their sentence, been granted parole, had charges dropped, or been granted release by a judge.
The committee heard powerful testimony this afternoon from two community members cruelly transferred to ICE after completing their sentences: Liyah Birru, a Black immigrant survivor of domestic violence who was incarcerated in state prison for defending herself against her abusive husband; and Carlos Muñoz, who was given a life sentence at 17, turned his life around, and became a mentor to others and a drug and alcohol counselor serving formerly incarcerated communities in L.A.
Liyah and Carlos are among a growing number of community members harmed by ICE transfers who have spoken publicly about the injustice they faced. Incarcerated firefighters Bounchan Keola and Kao Saelee were recently pardoned, but their families were traumatized by their detention. Recently, another formerly incarcerated firefighter, Phi Pham, was transferred to ICE by CDCR when he was eligible to be released. Phi remains in ICE detention in Colorado. In addition, a domestic violence survivor who came to the U.S. at age 2, Gabriela Solano, was deported after being transferred to ICE.
The VISION Act received a surge of support as it moved through three legislative committees, including from California’s Democractic Party, the Latino Legislative Caucus, and the API Legislative Caucus; the city and county governments of San Diego, San Francisco, Oakland, Santa Ana; over 90 organizations; Black Lives Matter-California, several key labor unions and federations including the California Labor Federation, SEIU California, Los Angeles Labor Federation, and UNITE HERE Local 11, along with 42 Rabbis and numerous Jewish organizations. The District Attorneys of Los Angeles and San Francisco Counties are also supporting the bill.
In addition to LA County, Humboldt, Contra Costa, Los Angeles, San Joaquin, Santa Cruz, San Francisco and Santa Clara counties have already ended the unjust practice of transferring immigrant community members to ICE. The Alliance for Boys and Men of Color estimates that transfers to ICE of people eligible for release from local jails alone cost $7.3 million dollars in 2018 to 2019.
People in prison and detention are disproportionately Black and Brown due to structural racism and are often survivors of abuse. Meanwhile, while only 7% of non-citizens in the U.S. are Black, Black immigrants made up 20% of people facing deportation on criminal grounds in the U.S in 2016. People who are deported often face mistreatment and even death, with one study finding that at least 138 people have been killed after being deported from the U.S. to El Salvador since 2013.