Turmoil is growing between the California state legislature and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement over immigration laws.
ICE’s Secure Communities program requires local law enforcement to send detainees’ fingerprints to immigration authorities and to hold them on behalf of ICE if they are identified as candidates for deportation.
The state legislature objects; it is close to passing a law instructing local law enforcement to disregard some instructions to detain prisoners longer (the details are not yet finalized). Under this law, California counties would be able to rejoin the program on a voluntary basis.
The opposition has been met with an uproar from ICE authorities, which have called these measures violations of federal law.
An international campus like USC should address the topic of immigration. More important, however, is the need to respect peoples’ rights.
Though stances on immigration vary throughout the USC community, the validity of this program can’t be a part of that discussion until we address the violation of human rights, as well as the harm to law enforcement and the community.
The law puts people who have been convicted of nothing worse than low-level crimes in danger of being detained beyond the lawful time — or, even worse, of being deported on the suspicion of a more serious offense.
To subject all detainees, without exception, to an inter-departmental background check makes mistakes unavoidable.
In defense of the Secure Communities program, ICE spokeswoman Nicole Navas issued the following statement: “Even though some aliens may be arrested on minor criminal charges, they may also have more serious criminal backgrounds which disguise their true danger to society.”
When the United States started putting Japanese-Americans in internment camps after the attack on Pearl Harbor because of their Japanese heritage, the reasoning was of a similar line. It essentially says we should be allowed to impugn upon innocent people’s rights in case we find out they are guilty.
It is possible some of these people are guilty of graver offenses, but in this country, people are considered innocent until proven guilty. Holding them in custody “just in case” goes against their rights. This issue is greater than immigration.
ICE’s Secure Communities program puts unwarranted strain on local law enforcement.
Asking local officers to forgo their own responsibilities to take part in the immigration struggle hurts their ability to protect their communities — their primary objective. Time spent dealing with undocumented immigrants could be spent keeping Los Angeles safe.
These issues have caused the state legislature to defy ICE. Led by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, the legislation is called the Trust Act. It has already been passed by the Assembly and the Senate Public Safety Committee.
To support human rights and make sure law enforcement has the means to keep us safe, don’t stay silent. Write a letter to a California legislator.
Daniel Grzywacz is a sophomore majoring in neuroscience and anthropology. His column “72 Degrees and Shaking” runs Wednesdays.