A bill that would halt state or local law enforcement from arresting, detaining, or assisting in arresting in transferring prisoners for immigration enforcement reasons was passed in the Senate Public Safety Committee 4-1.
Assembly Bill 937, authored by Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo (D-Los Angeles), would prohibit state and local agencies, such as state prison employees and law enforcement officers, from arresting or facilitating in the arrest, confinement, detention, transfer, interrogation, or deportation of an individual for an immigration enforcement purpose, such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention. Immigration status would also not longer be a factor in denying placement in certain probation or credit earning programs while in prison.
AB 937, also known as the VISION Act, would also no longer require the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to identify inmates in state prisons who are undocumented felons subject to deportation, nor will they require reporting of those statistics to the California Legislature. State and local criminal offender information systems will also see a major change, no longer requiring that place of birth be listed as it would help more easily identify immigrants.
Since being introduced in February, AB 937 has been a particularly polarizing bill. Many Democratic lawmakers and supporters have called the bill a “double punishment”, have noted the $7.3 million yearly cost to taxpayers in deportations from California, and pointed out how deadly this can be, as at least 138 illegal immigrants deported back to El Salvador alone have been killed.
“It is time to end the double punishment of immigrant Californians,” said Assemblywoman Carrillo earlier this year. “We do not need to devote valuable time and resources on unnecessary ICE transfers.”
Many organization, including human rights groups, agreed with Carrillo.
“The VISION Act would close the main pipeline by which California sends immigrants into a dangerous and abusive detention system,” added Human Rights Watch in a statement. “It would also provide immigrants who may be subject to deportation a stronger opportunity to assert their rights to a fair hearing and defend against deportation and family separation.”
AB 937 remains a polarizing bill after divisive Assembly vote
Republican lawmakers, joined by some Democrats and law enforcement supporters, have countered that AB 937 simply would not work, could lead to laxer security at the border, and lead to more crime problems in California due to the prisoners being able to stay.
“There is a huge effort to stop this,” noted former immigration lawyer James Van Horn to the Globe. “You have to remember that these aren’t just farmers and regular citizens trying to get to the U.S. for a better life or to escape violence. These are criminals. You can list as many cases as you want trying to point otherwise, but at the end of it they are criminals. So they serve time for the crime they committed here then go back.”
“And, as I pointed out last time, there are tons of ways around this bill. It will be super easy to continue deporting people after jail, or bringing them to a detention center. It’s like closing one window in a mansion while leaving the rest open.”
Despite being named a Latino Caucus Legislative Priority and picking up endorsements ranging from Black Lives Matter, to several city and county governments including San Diego and San Francisco, to the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), voting over the bill has remained close. During the June Assembly vote, it passed 42-21, but with 16 not voting, meaning that there could be enough of a differential in the Senate to block the bill. The Senate Public Safety Committee vote on Tuesday was 4-1, split up entirely along party lines, but the Assembly vote showed that enough may change votes later on.
“A lot of lawmakers have a lot to look on, especially when it comes to the wants of constituents,” continued Van Horn. “This is not an easy yes or no decision for many, especially some Democrats. There are a lot of Latino residents in California, but police organizations and corrections officers also feel like they should have say, and in some districts they can be a big chunk of the economy or populace. So while it is presented as a human rights issue, it is really much more complicated than that.”
AB 937 is expected to be voted on in the Senate Appropriations Committee soon.
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