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California Trust Act picks up steam in Sacramento

July 18, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Juana Reyes makes money by selling homemade tamales outside a very busy Northern California Wal-Mart.

After two years, security told her to leave, and when she came back, the undocumented immigrant from Mexico was arrested. Through an interpreter, Reyes said the arresting officer told her two children they were going to send their mother back to Mexico and would never see her again.

The single mother with no criminal record spent 13 days in jail. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, had asked local authorities to hold her on a federal detainer, and her U.S.-born children were put in foster care.

"When I was at the foster home, I felt bad," said Reyes' son, Cesar Cuesto. "I was crying for my mom."

A bill called the California Trust Act is one hurdle away from getting to Governor Jerry Brown's desk.

Think of it as the Anti-Arizona immigration law. The Trust Act allows law enforcement to ignore federal detainer requests and release illegal immigrants if they're not a public safety threat and haven't had any serious or violent felony convictions.

"Under the Trust Act, Ms. Reyes' shameful and extended detention would have been prevented," said Jon Rodney of the California Immigrant Policy Center.

The California Sheriffs' Association opposes the measure because it puts deputies between the feds and illegal immigrants. It says ICE typically doesn't explain why a person needs to be further detained, so somebody dangerous could be let go.

"People that are domestic violence, car thieves, a whole host of things, as long as it's not serious or violent, you're going to have those people being released out of our facilities," said Curtis Hill of the California Sheriff's Association.

"It's not fair or just what they're doing to me," Reyes said.

The Sheriffs' Association thinks this measure might be unconstitutional because states have no jurisdiction over immigration issues. But Trust Act supporters say local governments in Illinois and Wisconsin have a similar law in place.


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