An open letter to Assemblyman Das Williams, in response to the points raised in his emails to the Collective. This was submitted to a representative of Das today, July 25.
In your private e-mail to our collective (sent on July 17) you claim that you “think” that our primary objective in demanding your vote for AB 1081, the CA Trust Act “is to declare a victory and get publicity for the collective.” You also state that our press release did not indicate that we want a dialogue.
Please don’t misunderstand us; our only priority is to arrive at positive solutions for our community. Our stance is clear and unequivocal: we demand an end to the abuses which are occurring as a result of the Secure Communities Police-Migra partnership. Any dialogue that fails to further these goals is a waste of our time. We’re addressing you as a serious lawmaker, a Member of the State Assembly, and an elected representative that is ultimately accountable to public opinion. As such, we have a basic expectation that you consider the following:
In recent years we’ve witnessed police officers across the country being forced by the federal government to behave as proxies for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (DHS-ICE) under the “Secure Communities” program (S-Comm). In the absence of immigration policy reform on a national level, S-Comm has resulted in disaster for undocumented communities, saturating our neighborhoods with nervousness and fear. Rogue police officers have been granted free license to arrest undocumented residents on faulty pretexts with full knowledge that ICE “detainers” would subsequently lead to detention and deportation. 72,000 Californians have been deported as a result of this ill-conceived program.
Since S-Comm’s introduction, precincts and counties across the country have had virtually no say in its administration. Protests by law enforcement agencies and legislative bodies have testified to the fact that S-Comm has damaged public trust and resulted in undocumented communities avoiding all contact with law enforcement. As former Los Angeles Police Department Chief William Bratton said, “a person reporting a crime should never fear being deported, but such fears are real and palpable for many of our immigrant neighbors.” Even domestic-violence victims and witnesses have been subject to deportation proceedings as a result of the blind application of S-Comm.
In your interview with KEYT you stated, “I don’t feel like I should be voting for a law to stop California’s participation in Secure Communities” implying that S-Comm is an effective means of removing criminals from California streets. In subsequent e-mails, you also state that the CA Trust Act may “prevent Law enforcement from placing a hold and therefore deporting accused felons.”
The key word here is “accused.” Everyone has a right to a trial and undocumented immigrants are no exception. Criminal procedures are a non-factor in the Secure Communities equation; the presumed innocence of the accused is circumvented when criminal suspects are turned over to immigration authorities prior to representation before court. Your argument essentially gives the benefit of any doubt to the accuser and equates the accused with the convicted. Undocumented residents still enjoy the rights to Due Process assured by Amendment 5 to the U.S. Constitution; they shouldn’t be held to a different legal standard whereby constitutional rights and protections do not apply.
In a recent letter you also state, “There are aspects of the bill that I support,” but that “There are some that I have concerns – would it prevent law enforcement from holding a felon who can post bail, possibly going back to the community and inflecting more harm to victims [sic].”
However, AB 1081 Section 7282.5 states:
An individual shall not be detained by a law enforcement official on the basis of an immigration hold after that individual becomes eligible for release from criminal custody, unless, at the time the individual becomes eligible for release from criminal custody, both of the following conditions are satisfied:
(a) The individual has been convicted of a serious or violent felony, according to a criminal background check or documentation provided to the law enforcement official by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement…
Based on your argument, the above isn’t enough to guarantee that violent criminals would be kept off of our streets. 7 out of 10 of the 72,000 Californians deported under S-Comm have had either no convictions on their records or only minor offenses. There is no major “crisis” or “epidemic” of violent crime or felonies in the immigrant communities of our region that can justify such sweeping and indiscriminate “collateral damage.”
Another cause for concern with S-Comm is its fiscal impact on our community. California pays disproportionate costs associated with S-Comm and cash-strapped local governments shouldn’t be expected to shoulder these burdens. According to federal statistics for Ventura County, in 2009 immigrants served 78,376 days in jail at a cost of $126 per individual. This totaled $9,875,376 in costs for our county alone. However, the Justice Department’s State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP) only disbursed $1,173,128 in funding – a mere 12% of the total cost. This is due to the fact that SCAAP reimbursements are only available for convicted criminal aliens. The above numbers do not take into account the technological costs associated with the implementation of the program.
Taken as a whole, S-Comm represents an attack on our community’s peace and well-being and is an aggression against all of our rights. Unfortunately, the federal government hasn’t shown a willingness to address these long-standing concerns relating to the abuses that have taken place. The CA Trust Act seeks to remedy these problems through protections of our constitutionally-assured rights including a fair hearing in court, protections against racial profiling and pretextual arrests, protection for children and survivors of domestic abuse, the safeguarding of government transparency, and the right of localities to opt-out of the program. However, as one of our comrades stated, your expressed concerns about CA Trust are “the equivalent of not wanting a BMW because it has a chip on a lug nut.”
Assemblyman Williams, you have an established record of support for progressive legislation including setting limitations on checkpoints in Santa Barbara, backing the CA Dream Act, and upholding protections for farm workers. We are grateful for your support of our community in these instances, and it is our firm desire that you continue on this policy track. However, support for S-Comm is a matter of grave concern that undermines your past efforts to stand in solidarity with the most vulnerable residents of our state. Your statements in support of S-Comm have crossed a red line for our community but it isn’t too late to roll back some of the damage that this has caused.
It is of local and national importance that you choose the right side in this ongoing historic civil rights fight. We must send the clear message that California will no longer tolerate the unjust and abusive detention, and deportation, of otherwise law-abiding residents. In addition to it being a simple matter of human decency, we consider the CA Trust Act vote to be a minimal test of whether our elected representatives truly have our best interests at heart. We have no choice but to demand, in the strongest and most forthright language possible, that you vote “Yes” on the CA Trust Act when it reaches the State Assembly.
Colectivo Todo Poder al Pueblo