TRUTH Act heads to Gov’s desk, would bring transparency to shadowy deportation practices

SACRAMENTO, CA, Aug. 30, 2016 – This evening, the California State Assembly approved the TRUTH Act (AB 2792) by Assemblymember Rob Bonta. The initial vote count was 45-23. The bill, recently revamped and approved by the State Senate last week, now heads to the desk of Governor Jerry Brown.

The passage of the TRUTH Act comes amid mounting frustration over the involvement of local police and Sheriff with deportations. The bill approved today focuses on upholding the community’s right to know about Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)’s unscrupulous and secretive practices.

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“California is the nation’s most diverse and forward-thinking state. We don’t build walls, we build bridges. And the TRUTH Act embraces that core value by bringing transparency to ICE’s secretive practices and ensuring our immigrants have the same constitutional protections guaranteed to all Californians,” said Assemblymember Rob Bonta. California has the opportunity to lead with this sensible immigration policy that protects the rights of immigrants and shines a light on federal immigration policy,” the Assemblymember added.

Specifically, the bill would:

1) Put vital know-your-rights information in the hands of immigrant community members held in local jails and targeted by ICE.

  • The TRUTH Act would guarantee to community members the “right to know” if ICE has asked the local jail to turn the person over for deportation, and the “right to say no” or to request to have an attorney present for abusive interview requests where deportation agents often coerce, intimidate, and violate basic rights. While interviews with ICE inside local jails are optional, that basic information is currently denied to immigrants.
  • If local law enforcement does notify ICE about a person’s release date, they must also notify that person’s loved ones or attorney.

2) Shine light on the hidden pain caused by the involvement of local sheriffs and police in deportations.

  • Starting in 2018, any Police Chief or Sheriff that does turn a community member over to ICE must hold a public forum to explain the decision.
  • The bill would make clear that all records relating to ICE’s entanglement with local jails are public records.

With the latest round of amendments, this year’s bill no longer prohibits local law enforcement from providing personal information, such as release time from jail or home addresses. However, immigrant community leaders are determined to keep up the fight.

“Across the nation, people are realizing that mass incarceration — and mass deportation — are fundamentally unjust and disproportionately hurt communities of color. We’re going to keep fighting to keep local police and sheriffs out of the dirty business of deportation and to protect our communities against abuse and injustice,” said Claudia Bautista, organizer at the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON). She continued, “Our goal is to secure our communities by getting ICE completely out of our jails.”

ICE’s entanglement with law enforcement has generated increasing controversy across California. Most recently, the case of a Los Angeles grandmother turned over from LAPD to ICE and currently facing deportation due to false and tenuous accusations of gang association has illustrated how once handed over to ICE, community members can languish in detention for long periods of time with limited oversight. Additionally, cases including the deportation of the father of 6 citizen children over a broken headlight and a 20-year old conviction, the near deportation of a car-theft victim, the prolonged incarceration of the fiancé – now spouse – of a gay marine veteran with AIDS, and an ICE home raid that terrified a gay couple during Pride Month and almost resulted in the deportation of a man back to homophobic violence,  have sparked widespread anger.

The California Immigrant Policy Center (CIPC) advances inclusive policies that build a prosperous future for all Californians, using policy analysis, advocacy and capacity building to unlock the power of immigrants in California. www.caimmigrant.org