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Reshma Shamasunder's picture

My three daughters are asleep in their rooms as I write this. I was fortunate to eat dinner with them, help them with their homework, and read them a bedtime story this evening.

But many immigrant mothers in the US are being cruelly and forcefully torn away from their children. As a mom, I am appalled by what the Federal “Secure Communities” (S-Comm) deportation program is doing to parents and children across this country. Take the situation of Maria from Lodi, CA, mother to two young children, ages 2 and 3 months. Maria had endured repeated physical abuse by her boyfriend. Finally, out of desperation, Maria’s sister called the police to get help for her sister, but instead, both Maria and her boyfriend were arrested. Neither were tried or convicted, but both were deported to Mexico two days later by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Maria’s two young children are now with their grandmother in northern California, far from their mom.

I cannot believe that ICE is so out of control - a mother seeking help from the police for domestic violence is deported just like that, far from her kids, within days. We can do better. That’s why I strongly support the TRUST Act, AB 1081, by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano. The TRUST Act, a landmark California bill, would help to ensure that families, like Maria and her kids, stay together here in this country. It’s a constitutionally sound bill that steers our nation towards more inclusive immigration policies.

More than one quarter of California’s residents were born in another country, while nearly half of the state’s children have at least one immigrant parent. Many of those people have lived here for some time, and a good portion is still aspiring to be citizens. As a mom, I want communities that are safe for all of our children, and laws that keep our families together.

But under “Secure Communities,” fingerprints of all arrested are sent to immigration officials. No matter how minor the arrest, no matter how long the person has been a contributing resident of our state, and no matter that under our legal system, an arrest is not a conviction.

Immigration officials then ask the jail to hold people for extra time, at local expense, for deportation purposes. To be clear, people arrested on minor charges are held in our local jails far beyond the time they would otherwise be released, just for deportation purposes. And when I say minor, I mean minor – even people arrested for selling food without a permit can get held for deportation.

And this is scary for mothers and those facing abuse. According to press accounts, survivors of domestic violence have been put in deportation proceedings in places as different as San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Lodi.

The good news is, these “hold” requests from immigration authorities are completely optional. The bad news is, with all due respect, too few of our local law enforcement officials recognize this fact. As a result, mothers, survivors of domestic violence, and hardworking parents are being put into deportation proceedings every day. That’s why I have faith that Governor Jerry Brown will put an end to this injustice by signing the TRUST Act. Under the bill, only those convicted or charged by the District Attorney with a serious or violent felony can be held for deportation. And others can go about the business of caring for their families and spending a quiet evening with their children.

You can help. Take Action: Encourage California's Governor Jerry Brown to "Sign the TRUST Act!" today –
(916) 445-2841. 

Reshma Shamasunder is Executive Director of the California Immigrant Policy Center

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