Today, 51 leading legal scholars issued a detailed letter to California Governor Jerry Brown regarding the TRUST Act, a bill that seeks to limit deportations and rebuild community confidence in law enforcement.
In the letter, the experts urge the Governor to uphold a key feature of the bill as currently written by ensuring that prior brushes with the nation's broken immigration system do not cause immigration "holds" in California's jails.
The legal scholars urge against holding individuals simply because they have "prior removal orders" or "re-entry" offenses. The letter explains that these stem entirely from the nation's profoundly broken immigration system. They outline several devastating flaws in the nation's immigration system which result in unjust deportations, including:
- Serious procedural defects in the immigration court system. An unworkable immigration court system, with many long-time residents ordered deported without their knowledge or coerced into signing away their rights.
- Inadequate relief from deportation in current U.S. immigration law and policy. Unjust federal policies which prevent immigration judges from considering all of the circumstances of a person's case, including family ties
Key signatories of today's letter include Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of the UC Irvine School of Law; Christopher Edley, Jr., Dean of UC Berkeley's Boalt Hall School of Law; Kevin Johnson, Dean of the UC Davis School of Law; John Trasvina, Dean of the University of San Francisco School of law; and Frank H. Wu, Chancellor & Dean of the UC Hastings College of the Law. (Law school affiliations included for identification purposes only).
"We need immigration policies that uphold the principles of family unity and due process. As a first step toward fixing the injustices of our immigration system and advancing common-sense immigration policy across the nation, I urge the Governor to sign the TRUST Act as currently written," said Bill Ong Hing, Professor of Law at the University of San Francisco.
"Due to this nation's failure to establish a reasonable immigration process, many people who came to the United States for a better life and have deep family ties here have been swept up in a wave of aggressive enforcement with few legal options. Caught in a deeply dysfunctional system where judges' hands are tied and fundamental violations of basic due process principles are rampant, many are deported. They return to be reunited with their loved ones and contribute to this country. Channeling resources to deport them again after trivial or wrongful arrests undermines our values," remarked Allison Davenport, a Lecturer and Clinical Instructor at the International Human Rights Law Clinic of UC Berkeley's School of Law.
The TRUST Act would ensure that people arrested for low-level, non-violent offenses are not held for extra time at local expense in response to costly "hold" requests issued by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), often without probable cause that a person is deportable. Such holds have unfairly trapped citizens in local jails for an extended period of time, including survivors of domestic violence and other crimes, and many aspiring citizens arrested for issues as minor as selling food without a permit.
The ACLU of California is one of the 5 organizational sponsors of the bill, which will restore trust between immigrant communities and local law enforcement, save resources, uphold civil liberties.