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California Governor Jerry Brown has until the end of the month to decide if he’s going to sign the TRUST Act into law, and his decision to sign the bill or veto it will tell us a lot about whose side he is on. California’s bill would be the largest effort yet to restore the trust between police and immigrant communities that has been damaged by the federal “Secure Communities” program in recent years. But Brown is under tremendous pressure from ICE Director John Morton to support this failed program and help the government deport thousands of immigrants who’ve committed no crimes–the same immigrants President Obama has vowed to legalize.
In a little-publicized letter released earlier this month, ICE Director John Morton not only praised the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a designated hate group according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, but also revealed his not-so-subtle pressure tactics against state and local governments who feel that the federal Secure Communities program has actually made their communities less safe.
As Frank Sharry, Executive Director here at America’s Voice said:
Why is an appointed official in the Obama Administration consorting with a recognized hate group? John Morton’s love letter to FAIR is deeply disturbing, not only because he is treating them like a partner but also because of the tactics it reveals. ICE is strong-arming state and local governments who have concerns about this program, instead of working with them to address their needs.
A quick refresher: the TRUST Act, which recently passed both houses of the California legislature, seeks to restore the public trust police need to protect communities by addressing some of the problems with the federal Secure Communities program. While this program was supposed to focus resources on deporting serious criminals, it has instead turned routine police work into an immigration status check and led to record deportations of immigrants, including hundreds of thousands who are not criminals. Under “Secure Communities,” undocumented persons are often detained by police for very minor violations, such as driving without a license, and end up in federal hands on the path to deportation. In California alone, more than 75,000 immigrants have been deported since Secure Communities began there in 2009, and more than half of those immigrants were either convicted of no crime or convicted only of minor offenses. The TRUST Act is designed to focus that program on its stated goals, and ensure that immigrants who haven’t committed a crime are not afraid of contact with the police.
So, who will Gov. Brown side with? In addition to FAIR on the extremist side, you’ll find Arizona Governor Jan Brewer. As we’ve noted, in practice there is little difference between Secure Communities and Arizona’s SB 1070. That notorious law, which basically sanctions racial-profiling, attacks immigrants by making local cops turn them over to the federal government for deportation—destroying the trust between immigrants and local police. If Brown vetoes the TRUST Act, he’ll be in sync not only with FAIR, but also with Arizona’s Governor Brewer as well.
Or, Brown could show leadership and make his state the “anti-Arizona”. He could stand with his fellow Governors Andrew Cuomo (NY), Deval Patrick (MA) and Pat Quinn (IL) who sought to end relationships with Morton’s ICE program because of the serious problems wreaked upon the immigrant community. Those Governors recognized that the federal program was undermining local law enforcement and stood up to ICE. Even President Obama’s former Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, now the Mayor of Chicago, is supporting a city ordinance, similar to the TRUST Act, to protect his city’s immigrant population from Secure Communities. In his own state, Brown would not only be aligned with fellow governors in states with substantial immigrant populations, but also with more than 100 immigrant rights groups, police chiefs, and mayors, who are seeking to restore the public trust police need for community safety by supporting the TRUST Act.
Governor Brown has a choice to make — and that choice will impact immigrant communities throughout California. If he vetoes the TRUST Act, Brown will find himself in lockstep with Jan Brewer, John Morton, and FAIR. That’s out of character for Brown — and for California. By signing TRUST, Brown will ally himself with immigrants and follow the lead of Governors Cuomo, Quinn and Patrick. He’ll also keep California on the right path.