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Vida en el Valle

(Published Wednesday, January 16th, 2013 03:35PM)

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On a day when millions across Latin América observe El Día de los Reyes Magos by bringing gifts to loved ones in remembrance of the day when the Three Wise Kings followed the star to Bethlehem bearing gifts for the baby Jesus, community leaders and clergy -- including members of several immigrants rights organizations from across the state -- carried only one gift for Gov. Jerry Brown: A large pencil to sign the TRUST Act.

"This Day of the Epiphany is not just a Christian tradition commemorating the revelation of the newborn baby Jesus and the gifts he received from the Three Wise Men, but it is also the story of Joseph and Mary on their quest for safety, trust and belonging," said Rev. Phil Lawson a distinguished civil rights leader and member of the United Methodist church.

"Right now, our immigrant families who are undocumented are facing a different reality -- one of injustice and disintegration."

In a symbolic, short play, members of the faith community and local activists reenacted the biblical scene where Joseph and Mary, two "undocumented immigrants" are on a quest for sanctuary with the baby Jesus.

When they both arrive in Bethlehem, Mary's legal status is questioned. Unable to provide "proper, legal documentation" she is placed in deportation proceedings while Joseph is left to care for the baby Jesus, alone.

The short, raw and mostly ad-libbed political play was meant to highlight the plight of many undocumented families.

"We need to continue urging Gov. Brown to sign the TRUST Act so he could stop the painful separation of families. Too many continue to suffer," said Lawson.

In California, approximately 2,400 people are deported each month -- a result of Secure Communities or S-Comm., a federal program designed to detain undocumented immigrants with violent or criminal records.

Since August of last year, nearly 82,500 Californians have been deported under S-Comm with nearly 7 in 10 either having minor convictions or none at all.

"This is a message of hope. We know that all of us who are supporting passage of the TRUST Act have witnessed first-hand a family or friend who has been affected by S-Comm," said Jon Rodney from the California Policy Immigrant Center in Oakland.

On Dec. 3, Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, the original author of the TRUST Act, announced a revised version of the bill at a press conference after it had been vetoed by Brown.

State legislators such as Sen. Kevin De León (D-Los Ángeles), and Assemblymembers Luis A. Alejo, D-Salinas, and V. Manuel Pérez, D-Coachella, showed their support alongside Ammiano saying the TRUST Act would help their constituencies who reflect a large undocumented workforce and without it, public safety would be undermined.

First introduced in April 2011, the TRUST Act had quickly garnered support from more than 200 pro-immigrant groups, coalitions and organizations including the City of Los Angeles and former California State Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso.

The bill had made its way to the governor's desk in September but Gov. Brown vetoed the bill saying that comprehensive immigration reform was a better answer and that the bill was "fatally flawed."

Last year, ICE removed 409,849 people through S-Comm--the largest number of deportations in the agency's history, up 12,943 more compared to last year's record of 396, 906 according to figures released by the Department of Homeland Security.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, Latinos comprise 93 percent of individuals arrested through S-Comm even though they only make up 77 percent of the undocumented population in the United States.

If the TRUST Act is signed into law, it would create statewide standard upholding key values of due process and equality under the law, according to many proponents.

Those who participated in the short play believe the 'pencil' symbolizes California's need for leadership on immigration issues.

"Gov. Brown said he was willing to work on a revised version of this bill--a stronger version that details and outlines exactly what it will do. Our hope is that this newer version of the TRUST Act will be the one he signs," said Rev. Debbie Lee from the Interfaith Coalition for Immigrants Rights.

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