A group of immigrants rights activists stage a sit-in to block a bus transporting prisoners for deportation at the San Francisco Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office, October 17. Photo Xochitl Bernadette Moreno

On Oct. 5, Gov. Jerry Brown signed the Trust Act into law. The act will help many undocumented immigrants in California who have had contact with the police avoid deportation.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) utilizes Secure Communities (S-Comm), a program where fingerprints and arrest information are shared with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to enforce federal immigration laws, and deport undocumented immigrants.

When an undocumented immigrant is arrested by the police, ICE places a hold—a request to keep the immigrant in local jail for additional time of up to 48 hours— so that ICE can pick up, process and put the immigrant deportation in proceedings.

Historically, there has been tension between federal and state governments around the enforcement of immigration laws. The federal government has been criticized for inadequate compensation to states for the costs of extended detentions on ICE holds.

There has been no clear standard of how the holds should be placed and, as a result, there have been cases where U.S. citizens and immigrants who were not deportable were detained on ICE holds.

S-Comm has undermined the trust to law enforcement. Fearful of deportation, immigrants have become less likely to cooperate with law enforcement and report crimes.

The Trust Act gives clarity to the dynamic between state and federal law enforcement in the immigration sphere by prohibiting law enforcement to honor ICE holds for immigrants charged with or convicted of minor offenses.

This law permits state law enforcement to detain an immigrant on an ICE hold only in the following situations: 1) When the immigrant was convicted of a serious or violent felony, or a felony punishable by imprisonment in state prison; 2) Within the past five years the immigrant was convicted of a misdemeanor for a crime punishable as either a misdemeanor or a felony; 3) Has been convicted at any time of a felony for one of the offenses listed in the Trust Act; 4) Is registered on the California Sex and Arson registry; 5) The magistrate finds probable cause for a charge of felony for one of the offenses listed in the Trust Act, serious or violent felony, or a felony punishable by imprisonment in the state prison; 6) The immigrant was convicted of a federal crime.

Moreover, if an immigrant in California does not have a criminal history and gets arrested for a misdemeanor, the police will not be able to turn the immigrant over to ICE. Trust Act will help regain the trust of undocumented immigrants and immigrant communities.

Wilson Purves is legal advisor for immigration matters with the Mexican Consulate of San Francisco and a licensed California attorney practicing Immigration Law in San Francisco.

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