Law would shield undocumented immigrants from status checks

July 7, 2012 1:15:10 AM PDT
The California Senate has passed a bill that hopes to shield undocumented immigrants from status checks by local police.

Assm. Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, says this new measure is necessary. He says the existing federal Secure Communities program violates people's rights, undocumented or not.

Ammiano sponsored the California Trust Act, which passed the state Senate 21-13. It stops local police from referring any detainee to immigration officials unless that person has been convicted of a violent or serious felony.

"People live in the shadows; they may be a victim of domestic violence, you don't report it because you think you'll be deported, this is not the America we want," he said.

Right now, the federal Secure Communiities program allows fingerprints that are sent to the FBI by local police for background checks, to also be sent to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. ICE can then ask local police to hold the person for deportation proceedings..

But not reporting all criminal violations doesn't sit well with the Minutemen, who want to enforce immigration laws.

"If somebody is illegal and they're caught doing anything illegal they should be reported to ICE, or turned over to ICE," Steve Kemp said. "The feds are supposed to be enforcing the immigration laws in this country and they're not doing it."

Kemp says this new measure basically takes the teeth out of law enforcement.

"All it's doing is taking more power away from law enforcement to let illegal aliens do what they want to do," he said.

California had an estimated 2.6 million undocumented immigrants in 2010, the last year for which figures are available. That's the largest of any state.

San Francisco resident Will Pappin says the measure will give them some peace of mind.

"If they get pulled over for a ticket wondering if they're illegal status is going to come up because of a like a driving infraction," he said. "So I'm glad it alleviates that sense of worry for people."

The ICE Secure Communities program states it prioritizes deporting illegals with criminal records. It has been credited with almost 400,000 deportations last year, its highest number ever.

The California Trust Act next goes before a procedural hearing in the Assembly before being sent to the governor.


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