You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:19, NRSV).
Trust is hard to come by these days on Mission and Cesar Chavez streets here in San Francisco. The sizable immigrant community in the City’s sunny Mission District currently lives under an oppressive fog of fear because of the unfortunately named “Secure Communities” federal deportation program (often called “S-Comm”). This four-year-old program has created a direct link between local law enforcement and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The program runs the fingerprints of every person arrested through Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s database. If ICE believes someone is “deportable,” it asks local officers to hold that person for additional time so ICE can pick her or him up for deportation. The “Secure Communities” program has led to the deportation of nearly 80,000 people in California alone. About 7 in 10 of those deported either had no convictions or minor offenses.
A recent New York Times editorial pointed out that this misguided federal program has resulted in crime victims and witnesses in immigrant communities being afraid to cooperate with the police for fear that any encounter could mean being handed over to ICE.
Earlier this year, congregations affiliated with The San Francisco Organizing Project put their faith into action to do something about this community issue. On January 28, more than 2,000 people of faith gathered at St. Mary’s Cathedral alongside San Francisco Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, who publicly pledged to re-introduce the Trust Act to the California State Legislature. Today, the bill has made it through the California State Senate and Assembly and is sitting on Governor Brown’s desk, waiting to be signed.
The TRUST Act (AB 1081) would rebuild trust between immigrants and police. Under the bill local authorities could only submit to ICE’s “hold” requests if the person has a serious or violent felony conviction, or has been charged by the District Attorney with a serious or violent felony. The bill has garnered broad support in California, including two sheriffs, six police chiefs, 22 members of Congress, and a diverse alliance of religious leaders.
The Trust Act will decrease governmental spending and increase public safety, civil liberties, and the number of families staying together in our communities.
Governor Brown has until Sunday, September 30 to decide. Act today and join fellow people of faith working to break through this oppressive fog of fear!
“I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Jesus, Matthew 25:35, NRSV ).
Please join me in calling Governor Brown today (916-445-2841) and urging him to sign the Trust Act (AB 1081).
To email Gov. Brown, follow this link (http://govnews.ca.gov/gov39mail/mail.php), select “AB1081/State government: federal immigration policy enforcement” as your subject (you have to scroll down a bit), and write your email.
—Geoffrey Nelson-Blake, M.Div., lives in San Francisco with his wife Natalie, and works as a congregation-based community organizer with the San Francisco Organizing Project, a part of the PICO National Network.