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California Governor Jerry Brown Signs Trust Act into Law

While immigration news of late has not been too positive with Congressional immigration reform being stalled while the U.S. government works on resolving its own budget situation, California recently passed a law that will have a positive impact on the immigration community. Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the Trust Act, a law that rejects the cloud of suspicion that the Obama Administration has cast over immigrant communities and sets the immigration debate in the right direction.

The TRUST Act ensures that California law enforcement will not submit to requests by ICE to hold people who have been charged with or convicted of only minor crimes for extra time in order to facilitate their transfer to immigration. The bill was considered, drafted, and passed by the California legislature as a response to the overly common experience of an interaction with law enforcement resulting in deportation, which sent a chilling effect throughout California communities and endangered public safety by making people afraid to call the police. A recent study showed that 40% of Latinos in Los Angeles were less likely to call police even when victim of a crime due to the police’s perceived involvement in immigration. If it is more important to prevent crime from happening in our communities, then people need to know they can trust the police are focused on that over any other issue.

Under the new policy, California law enforcement will no longer blindly comply with every immigration hold request from ICE. Instead, California officials will only detain a person for immigration if that person meets any of the following criteria:
1. Has been convicted of an enumerated felony, including any felony categorized under California law as “serious or violent,” any felony punishable with a state prison term, and additional specifically listed felonies;
2. Has been convicted within the past five years of a misdemeanor for a “wobbler” crime that could have been charged as a felony;
3. Is currently charged with an enumerated felony, including any felony categorized under California law as “serious or violent,” any felony punishable with a state prison term, and additional specifically listed felonies, and a magistrate judge has determined after a hearing that there is probable cause to support the felony charge;
4. Is currently registered in the California Sex and Arson Registry;
5. Is subject to a federal felony arrest warrant or has been convicted of certain federal felonies.

The California TRUST Act creates a floor, not a ceiling. Localities within the state are free to place additional limits on compliance with ICE holds in order to protect the safety and civil rights of their residents. While other states make it easier to comply with the Secured Communities policies of the Obama Administration, California is setting an example that our communities are more secure when people are not afraid to speak up when crimes occur. Taking away the threat of immigration holds unless a person meets one of the criteria above will encourage our communities to speak up when crimes occur, thus creating safer and more secure communities.