Immigration laws are known to be confusing, especially when it comes to the distinction between federal and state regulations. This is true for immigrants and law enforcement alike. The Los Angeles Police Department may be at odds with federal law if officers follow the new “Trust Act” passed by the CA Legislature last Friday.
The Trust Act prohibits local authorities from complying with federal detention requests of immigrants, except when a suspect has been charged with a serious or violent crime. In contrast, a federal law called Secure Communities mandates our local law enforcement share fingerprint databases with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. That means someone booked on a minor offense could come to immigration authorities’ attention, and ICE could issue a request for the local agency to detain the suspect. The Trust Act would prohibit sheriffs and police departments from honoring such hold requests. “It would make me break either federal or state law. I would have to pick which one to break,” Sonoma County Sheriff Steve Freitas said.
We need coherent immigration laws across the country, clarifying not only the rights of documented and undocumented immigrants but also the priorities of local and federal law enforcement. Immigration laws need to be clearer on what rights immigrants have, and should focus on arresting those that have actually committed “egregious crimes” rather than spending time, energy, and cash-strapped budgets on immigration detainees that are being jailed and deported for misdemeanors.