California’s TRUST ACT

California’s Trust Act

June 21, 2012   A bill moving through the California Legislature, aptly named the Trust Act, seeks to counter the damage done to community policing and public safety by the Obama administration’s Secure Communities program. The program conducts mandatory immigration checks of everyone booked into local jails and has led to the deportations of many thousands of people with no criminal records, while impeding law enforcement.

Related in Opinion  Op-Ed Contributor: Death in the Desert  (June 22, 2012)

Once the [Secure Communities] program identifies immigration violators, federal officials can issue “detainers,” or requests that people be held so they can be picked up for deportation. Local departments usually comply, even though police officials complain that doing so clogs their cells with traffic violators and other very minor offenders, including — because of database foul-ups — wrongfully detained citizens and legal residents.

When every arrest is a potential immigration arrest, people in immigrant communities are afraid to report crimes or cooperate with investigations.

Hence the Trust Act. Sponsored by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano of San Francisco, the bill would require local police departments to release people who have been arrested once their bond is posted or their sentence is up as long as they have no serious convictions and even if federal officials have issued a detainer.

California is hardly going rogue as states like Arizona and Alabama have. Unlike them, it has not drafted laws starkly opposed to federal immigration priorities, to harass the innocent and encourage racial profiling.

On the contrary, the bill has been endorsed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles, the police chiefs of Oakland and Palo Alto, California’s Catholic bishops and a wide cross-section of other city governments, police officials and immigrant-rights organizations.

The bill would enhance the ability of local departments to fight crime by restoring community trust and saving jail space for serious offenders. It deserves to become law.

A version of this editorial appeared in print on June 22, 2012, on page A24 of the New York edition with the headline: California’s Trust Act.