Neidi Dominguez, an organizer with the CLEAN Carwash Campaign, sends us this excerpt from her opinion column on Politics 365.
When President Obama announced in June that he would grant certain young, undocumented immigrants the opportunity to avoid deportation and work legally in the United States, thousands of people felt the cloud of stress and fear, which shadows our lives, begin to lift. That announcement was an important step to advance the rights of aspiring citizens in this country.
The next big step is sitting on California Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk, waiting for his signature to become law.
The TRUST Act, which cleared the California state Assembly and Senate, would prevent a deeply flawed federal deportation program from tearing apart more California families, diverting important resources and costing the state millions of dollars.
The roughly $65 million the state has spent to imprison immigrants takes money away from more resourceful ways to spend taxpayer dollars. Money wasted on Secure Communities would pay the salaries of more than 1,400 teachers or put more than 5,000 students through their first year at any University of California campus.
The source of the problem is the so-called “Secure Communities” program. The program is intended to target only “those who pose a threat to public safety,” but instead the program’s become a dragnet for deporting virtually anyone caught in the program’s web. In California, 70% of immigrants fast-tracked to deportation through Secure Communities were convicted of only minor offenses, such as traffic violations.
California’s TRUST Act would restore the Secure Communities program to its original intention: keeping all communities safe. It would free local law enforcement from helping to enforce a federal program responsible for the deportation of roughly 400,000 people annually, most of whom have not committed a serious crime or violation. By returning the focus of local law enforcement onto serious offenders, it would alleviate many people’s fear that reporting a crime could result in victims being forcibly removed from their families and homes.
In a letter to Gov. Brown, more than 30 distinguished law professors and deans recently explained that local law enforcement is not bound by law to participate in holds requested by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The TRUST Act is perfectly legal and would create an alternative to the inhumane laws and practices under way in Arizona, Georgia and Alabama.
For immigrants like me who were brought to this country at a young age, the president’s deferred action announcement brought renewed hope—but fear still lingers for many in our community.
My mother brought me to Pasadena from Mexico for a safer life when I was nine years old. She cleaned houses and offices during the day and delivered the Los Angeles Times at night. She made it possible for me to graduate from University of California, Santa Cruz. While my sister and I wait for our legal work permits and plan to get drivers’ licenses, she still lives in fear that any interaction with the police—even for a minor traffic violation—could mean her deportation. That is my biggest nightmare.
The TRUST Act doesn’t solve the whole problem, of course. We still need Congress to create a common-sense immigration process and scrap the Secure Communities program. That has to happen in Washington, D.C., but California can embrace inclusion and aspiring citizens’ rights by leading the way.