Legislation would help protect vulnerable immigrants

I used to be a teacher, so I have to correct mistakes where I see them. Don’t worry, no rulers.

The recent San Francisco Examiner editorial, “Ammiano’s bill is wrong approach to immigration,” has one big fact wrong. The Examiner wrote that my bill — AB 1081, the Trust Act — would order local law enforcement officials, “with the force of state law, to ignore federal law.” This is simply untrue.

You don’t have to believe the former teacher. More than 30 top legal scholars agree with me. They wrote to Gov. Jerry Brown this week to say that. They support Trust and I’ll share some of what they said below.

First: What does my bill do? It tells local law enforcement that there are only limited circumstances where they should submit to Immigration and Customs Enforcement requests to hold people beyond the time they would normally be held. Those limited circumstances apply to people convicted of serious or violent felonies, or those charged formally with such crimes by a district attorney.

The misconception is that Secure Communities detainer requests from ICE somehow carry the force of federal law. This is what Los Angeles Sheriff Lee Baca wants people to believe. Although The Examiner rightly criticized the anti-immigrant, anti-minority practices of Arizona’s Sheriff Joe Arpaio, it didn’t seem to realize that California also has lawmen who seem to want to follow in Arpaio’s footsteps.

Fortunately, a growing number of others, like San Francisco Police Department Chief Greg Suhr and Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith, disagree and support Trust, because of how it drains local crime-fighting resources for a federal administrative purpose.

On top of that, we have the detailed analysis sent to Brown by Dean Christopher Edley Jr., UC Berkeley  School  of Law; professor Richard Boswell, UC Hastings College of Law; professor Bill Hing, University of San Francisco School of Law; and 28 other legal professors, deans and scholars.

It says, flatly, “the primary opposition argument against the Trust Act — i.e. that immigration detainers are mandatory orders — is without merit.” They spend 10 pages, with footnotes (God love ’em), explaining why. If you like footnotes, call my Sacramento office and they’ll share the letter.

Opponents, including The Examiner, claim I am bucking “the highest law in the land,” but the scholars’ analysis shows it is the Secure Communities program that raises the constitutional concerns — including issues of due process and the Fourth Amendment.

The threat to our long-held values doesn’t come from Trust, but from Secure Communities’ abuses against long-standing Californians, productive residents and even, in some cases, citizens and people accused of no crimes.

In Sacramento Juana Reyes, a 20-year resident — a single mother of two American citizens — was jailed for nearly two weeks and threatened with deportation for selling tamales in front of a big-box store when asked not to. She was never charged. The Trust Act seeks to curb these wrongs and that is why the scholars support it.

The Examiner said, I “should find another battle to wage.”

No. The California Legislature and I have picked exactly the right battle, a battle to defend California from the excesses of immigration control and from the Sheriff Arpaio wannabes.

We ask Gov. Brown to join us.

Tom Ammiano is a state assemblyman who represents San Francisco.

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