Groups Decry Expected Enforcement Legislation

July 27, 2015

Elizabeth Beresford, [email protected], 917-648-0189

More Than 50 California Groups Urge Sens. Feinstein, Boxer to Stop Efforts to Undermine California Law; Expected Legislation Would Bully Local Authorities

“We are deeply concerned that leaders in the state with the largest immigrant population in the country are willing to consider or lead legislative efforts to mandate local and state police entanglement with federal immigration enforcement.”

[ View letter here: ] [*]

WASHINGTON — Over 50 California civil rights, immigrants’ rights, workers’ rights, and faith-based organizations urged their senators to stop efforts that would undermine California law. The Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC) and the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) delivered the letter to Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer this afternoon.

It comes in response to reports that Senators Feinstein and Boxer are planning to introduce federal legislation that would undermine California law by requiring all jurisdictions’ local law enforcement to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or face defunding of essential government programs needed to keep communities safe.

The letter, which was signed by a diverse community of California constituents who represent civil rights, immigrants’ rights, victims’ services, labor, faith, and human rights organizations, can be accessed at[*]

The groups expressed concerns “that leaders in the state with the largest immigrant population in the country are willing to consider or lead legislative efforts to mandate local and state police entanglement with federal immigration enforcement. This type of entanglement through Secure Communities and other programs resulted in more deportations in California than any other state and a record number of deportations in our history. Legislative efforts, along with efforts to strip federal grants from local law enforcement agencies that prioritize building and restoring community trust over detention and deportation, are exactly the kinds of enforcement-only policies that have and will continue to rip apart millions of immigrant families who make up the fabric of our communities across California and the entire nation.”

“We are deeply concerned that Senators Feinstein and Boxer are considering legislation that would undermine California law,” said Eric Cohen, executive director, Immigrant Legal Resource Center. “As the most immigrant-rich state in the nation, California has been a leader in establishing law enforcement policy and practice that prioritize community trust and safety. Local law enforcement officials nationwide have repeatedly and consistently decried any obligation to enforce federal immigration law because doing so undermines community trust in the police, which is a critical component to effective policing.”

“Senators Feinstein and Boxer should know better than to champion policies that bully localities into a forced arrangement with ICE,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director, National Immigration Law Center. “Instead of reactionary policies that continue the failed enforcement-only approach of recent decades, what we need instead is broad, humane, and just immigration reform that presents a long-term solution consistent with our values. California has the most to win or lose from our immigration policies. And we expect our elected officials to promote common-sense solutions that result in immigrant integration, not punitive policies that further marginalize new Californians.”

Over 320 localities in diverse geographic regions such as Kansas, California, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and many other states have limited their involvement in immigration enforcement because of concerns about liability for failure to uphold Fourth Amendment protections and concerns that such involvement undermines community trust in the police, a critical component to effective policing.

Law enforcement groups, as well as groups representing cities, mayors, and crime victims have all spoken out in opposition to policies that undermine community trust, saying when victims and witnesses are afraid to come forward and work with the police, the police simply cannot do their job.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson has also recently condemned any federal legislation that would require sheriffs and police to cooperate with ICE.

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[*] The letter’s list of signatories was updated on July 28, 2015.

The Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC) works with immigrants, community organizations, legal professionals, law enforcement, and policy makers to build a democratic society that values diversity and the rights of all people. Through community education programs, legal training & technical assistance, and policy development & advocacy, the ILRC’s mission is to protect and defend the fundamental rights of immigrant families and communities.

The National Immigration Law Center (NILC) is the primary legal advocacy organization in the U.S. exclusively dedicated to defending and advancing the rights and opportunities of low-income immigrants and their families. NILC focuses on key issues that affect low-income immigrants’ lives, including access to health care, economic support programs, and education; workers’ rights; and immigration reform and enforcement policies. To advance its mission, NILC uses multiple, integrated strategies: litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. And through trainings, publications, and providing legal counsel and advice, NILC also educates a wide range of audiences about legal and policy matters that affect immigrants.