Assembly Bill 4, which deals with local law enforcement and undocumented immigrants, sounds vaguely reminiscent to Arizona’s SB 1070.
The Arizona bill originally required law enforcement officers to check the immigration status of individuals they suspected of being in the state unlawfully.
However, when SB 1070 reached the Supreme Court several provisions of the bill were struck down on the basis that state immigration provisions would create problems for foreign nations seeking to look after the welfare of their citizens in the United States.
Writing for the majority opinion, Justice Kennedy said foreign countries should be able to “communicate on this subject with one national sovereign, not the 50 separate States.”
Unlike SB 1070, which sought to allow state and local law enforcement to “arrest aliens on the basis of possible removability,” California’s AB 4 attempts to remove the ability for state law enforcement to detain suspected immigrants unless they have committed a serious crime.
Though the two bills seem almost entire opposites of each other, they were enacted to address the inadequacies of federal immigration enforcement policy. Arizona passed SB 1070 because the state felt there wasn’t enough enforcement. California passed AB 4 because there was too much.
AB 4, also known as the Trust Act, was drafted in response to problems arising from the states’ cooperation with the Obama administration’s Secure Communities program.
Under the Secure Communities program, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would be able to access the fingerprints recorded by local law enforcement. If Homeland Security finds a suspect to be in the country unlawfully, they can request local authorities to detain them until they are transferred to federal custody.
According to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s website, all individuals who are booked are fingerprinted, setting aside any concerns of racial discrimination.
If the DHS discovers that a fingerprinted individual is indeed an illegal immigrant, the department goes through a thorough process to determine whether or not he or she deserves removal.
The department maintains that because they are working with limited resources, their goal is to focus on removing illegal immigrants who have been convicted of a crime, or those who pose a risk to public safety or national security.
Of course, not everyone shares the view that Secure Communities has been a flawless immigration enforcement program.
Experts at the Immigration Policy Center say that in 2011, 26 percent of individuals deported under the program had no criminal record and 29 percent of deportees were convicted of minor criminal offenses.
Such evidence contradicts ICE’s claim that the program aims to focus its efforts on serious criminals.
Aarti Kohli, Peter Markowitz and Lisa Chavez of the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy reported that 3,600 United States citizens have been arrested through the Secure Communities program.
Thirty-nine percent of individuals arrested through Secure Communities were either married to a U.S. citizen or had a child who was a US citizen, underscoring how the program adversely impacts approximately 88,000 families.
Additionally, they found that 93 percent of the individuals who were deported were Latino, even though Latinos only made up 73 percent of undocumented immigrants. Only 52 percent of individuals arrested from Secure Communities received an appearance before an immigration judge.
California, recognizing the shortfalls this federal policy has had in keeping residents’ civil liberties intact, and the potential economic impact from removing key actors of the state’s economy from the picture, moved to enact AB 4 to prevent further damage.
The New York Times may have applauded California for addressing these shortfalls, but states should not have to compensate for federal policies that have failed to achieve their intended goals.
It is not their responsibility. Congress needs to get over themselves and do their job.