San Francisco archdiocese supports anti-deportations bill
California legislators on June 12 will hold the first hearing into legislation enthusiastically supported by the Archdiocese of San Francisco, along with all the state’s Catholic bishops, that would reform California’s participation in a federal program that the bill’s advocates say leads to deportations that are tearing apart families.
The bill, by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, is called the Trust Act and would allow local governments to comply with federal requests to detail people for deportation only if they have a serious or violent felony conviction, and lessen the opportunity for profiling and the wrongful detention of citizens and crime victims and witnesses.
Too often, the archdiocese and other advocate say, people without documentation are deported after being identified through the federal program and found to have committed minor infractions. The result, they say, is a broken family.
Auxiliary Bishop William J. Justice, at a news conference in San Francisco June 7, said he stands with Archbishop George Niederauer who has said: “It is important that we keep working to change the policies that hurt our people. We cannot rest until the laws of our country reflect the laws of God and the dignity of people.
“We cannot allow the pain of family separation and the fear amongst our communities to continue. We need to respect the dignity of our brothers and sisters, undocumented or not.”
The Senate Public Safety Committee will take up the bill, amended this year by Ammiano, that would revise the state’s participation in what is known as “Secure Communities,” or the S-Comm deportation program. It is an agreement between the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and states that local governments will detain undocumented people when requested. However, Ammiano and other advocates cite statistics that show that as of March 31, S-Comm had deported more than 70,000 Californians, about seven in 10 of whom either had no convictions or had been apprehended as a result of offenses as minor as selling ice cream without a permit.
“When immigration reform is not addressed swiftly enough in national policy, supporting statewide legislation, such as the Trust Act, is critical to protecting our families,” said Bishop Justice. “Our local governments are increasingly feeling the burden of these unjust national policies which undermine the hard earned trust built between our immigrant communities and local police. This bill will advance public safety by rebuilding that trust that S-Comm has destabilized. This legislation is the least we can do for our immigrant families,” he said.
Bishop Justice added that the current law puts people at risk – for example, a wife being abused by her husband may not want to notify police about the abuse if she fears deportation will affect her family. “That is a tragedy,” he said, “and it is also tragic that families are being split up.”
The news conference was organized by the Public Policy and Social Concerns office of the archdiocese and the San Francisco Organizing Project. They were joined by Gabriela Villareal, a policy analyst with the California Immigrant Policy Center, a nonprofit that seeks to empower immigrants in the state, who said, “We are all safer when we foster trust and transparency between all communities and the local police, but the out-of-control federal Secure Communities program has destroyed those relationships, making us all less safe and burdening our local government.”
June 7th, 2012
By George Raine