Religious groups pressure officials for TRUST Act

SACRAMENTO — Despite efforts to pass comprehensive immigration reform, the number of deportations across the country have steadily continued.

In California alone, 93,571 undocumented immigrants have been deported through the controversial Secure Communities program from October 2008 through February 2013. Twenty-four percent of those deportations, or 22,431, were non-criminals.

According to Homeland Security figures, nearly half — or 40,770 of the 93,571 deportations — are classified as low-level offenders including those with misdemeanors.

On June 17, a handful of members from the Sacramento Area Congregations Together (ACT) held a vigil on the north steps of the state Capitol to remember the thousands of fathers who were unable to spend time with their families on Father’s Day because they await their fate in detention or have already been deported.

“What we are doing is praying for all those men who are fathers and have families, wives and children living here in the United States who can’t be with them during special holidays because they have been deported or are sitting in a detention facility waiting to be deported. There are others who are waiting in line for their visa just to be reunited with their families and the process is taking too long,” said Lupe Portillo, an ACT volunteer.

The vigil was one of several the faith organization held over the Father’s Day weekend — including one at the Catholic Cathedral of Sacramento Saturday night and another in front of Sacramento Sheriff Scott Jones’ office — as a calling on elected officials to help keep families together by supporting national immigration reform. They also want the TRUST Act passed at the state level.

“While Congress talks about immigration, the deportations continue and some have been unfair. I keep hearing the stories being told over and over again: undocumented immigrants being detained and deported for minor things. Some have been U.S. citizens and have been racially profiled,” said Portillo.

Members of the faith community are urging Gov. Brown to sign the TRUST Act in California to put a stop to the deportations. The bill successfully passed out of the public safety committee in April and is awaiting its fate on the Assembly floor a second time after being vetoed by Brown last year.

If passed, the measure would prohibit state and local law enforcement officials from detaining an individual on the basis of an ICE hold after the individual becomes eligible for release from criminal custody.

“There are millions of children across the country who spent Father’s Day alone. For many families, the father is the breadwinner and the sole provider. Deportation of any member of the family has a negative impact on that family,” said Lily Moran, member of the Sacramento Diocesan Immigration Support Network.

“We are doing all we can to talk to our elected officials about what is going on. We are trying to put a face on a harsh reality. Here in Sacramento, there are hundreds of families who have been affected by deportations. A loved one has been deported in every single case and the impact is detrimental to families,” said Portillo.

ACT is hoping to some influence with Sacramento Sheriff Scott Jones, who is considering a local detainer policy for Sacramento County regarding undocumented immigrants and has “put the policy on hold” to see “the results of pertinent legislation on the topic that is winding its way through the legislature which, if passed, will have an influence on the policy,” he wrote an e-mail to a member of the Immigration Support Network.

Last year, the state and Sacramento County Sheriffs’ Associations opposed the TRUST Act. At the moment, the Sheriff’s department detains suspected undocumented immigrants without bail until the federal government either takes custody of them or let’s them go. The county does not allow bail for undocumented immigrants if U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has placed a hold on them for possible deportation.

The policy, differs from most law enforcement agencies, according to the State Sheriff’s Association officials.

“National Immigration Reform has become more nebulous, so we are increasingly concerned. We are looking at state wide reform to protect the millions who may not benefit from the federal legislation,” said Annie Fox, organizer with ACT.

Since 2009, Sacramento County has allowed ICE agents to visit the jail daily to check anyone who has been detained in custody where there is a question of their immigration status.

Fox is hoping a meeting with Jones in the coming week will change his mind.

“We want him to listen to our concerns and to express the importance of the TRUST Act,” said Fox.

“Sheriff Jones has already agreed to meet with us and we are prepared to share our concerns. Immigration reform has become the No. 1 issue for the interfaith community and we are determined to push for any and all legislation that stands to benefit the undocumented community,” added Fox.

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