Last month in Mendota, California, Esperanza, a mother of two young children, was driving to church when local police pulled her over for having tinted windows. The officer issued Esperanza a fix-it ticket for the tinted windows and told her that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would be showing up at her home. Within 30 minutes, ICE officers were at Esperanza’s door to arrest and deport her. Esperanza is now in hiding.
Although alarming, Esperanza’s experience is commonplace in California and across the country. Approximately 70% of all deportations nationwide are the result of local law enforcement’s participation in federal immigration enforcement activities. This is where Trump’s deportation dragnet lies – in the arrests, hand-offs, and information-sharing between local law enforcement and federal immigration agents. The administration needs local law enforcement as its “force multipliers;” without their assistance, the Trump administration cannot dramatically increase deportations.
This is why the Trump administration is so aggressively trying to bully local law enforcement to participate in deportations. Just recently, Attorney General Sessions said he would withhold federal funding to agencies that do not cooperate with ICE’s detainers, even though courts have held that compliance with ICE detainers violates the Constitution. And, in a failed effort to spark fear and outrage, the administration released information about numbers of ICE detainer requests declined by local police, but the information was so misleading and erroneous it earned the ire of even California’s most helpful-to-ICE Sheriff.
President Trump has already unleashed his immigration agents to troll areas of public life previously considered off-limits for immigration enforcement including areas around schools, hospitals, and places of worship. Survivors of violent and physical assault are dropping their cases for fear that testifying in court will expose them to deportation. Educators report that school attendance is dropping, and health clinics report that immigrants are removing themselves from California health-care programs. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly unapologetically told California’s Chief Justice that ICE would continue to arrest immigrants in California’s courtrooms.
States and localities can reject the Trump administration’s reckless and inhumane deportation agenda by ensuring that its police forces and basic public services will not be used to facilitate deportations.
California’s state senate just approved legislation – the California Values Act (SB 54) – that will do just that. The California Values Act will establish statewide standards to ensure that state and local resources are not used to deport thousands of Californians who belong here with their families and whose removal only serves to harm the children, families and communities left behind.
The California Values Act would ensure that California residents have equal access to vital public services, including police, hospitals, schools and courthouses, regardless of national origin and immigration status. With an unregulated, unbridled Trump deportation force, Californians now more than ever need the protection of California law.
In Esperanza’s case, the bill would have prevented police from calling ICE after they conducted a traffic stop and it would have meant the difference between raising her children and facing permanent separation from them.
Esperanza’s story will be replicated thousands of times across the nation unless California, other states and local communities step in to say no to using its state and local resources to aid deportation efforts.
Help us make sure California steps up. Visit https://ssl.capwiz.com/aclu/ca/issues/alert/?alertid=76614626&type=ST to send your California State Representatives a message to support SB54.
Jennie Pasquarella is the Director of Immigrants’ Rights/Senior Staff Attorney for ACLU of Southern California.