Recent events have created ferment and confusion around Obama’s immigration policies. The Obama administration recently announced that deportation proceedings would rely on prosecutorial discretion, a likely empty attempt to tap into hope around the DREAM Act. The Department of Homeland Security also recently announced that no entity at the municipal, county or state level has the right to opt out of the Secure Communities program. Together, perhaps not by coincidence, the announcements create a possibly baseless cause for hope, as well as a frustrating sense of futility at the community level. Irregardless, members of the immigrant community, local representatives and action and advocacy groups packed a regional community forum on Secure Communities, and California’s AB1081 TRUST Act, sponsored by Causa Justa and the Asian Law Caucus at the Unity Council Senior Center in Oakland on Saturday, August 27.
A pretty lengthy sound off at the introduction of the meeting revealed the extent of the impact of the program via the diversity of the groups that came to attend. From areas as far as Sonoma, Richmond, San Jose and San Francisco, came representatives of the ACLU, the National Lawyer’s Guild, interfaith, union and day laborer’s organizations, and even the socialist candidate for Sheriff of San Francisco County.
The forum gave voice to the individuals and families that have been impacted by Secure Communities. These included not only recent immigrants who fell into the Secure Communities web through traffic infractions, but a foster parent [ and Unite Here member] who spoke of the tragedy of caring for four children whose parents had been deported under Secure Communities. Young people who have virtually never known life in another country also told their stories. These included the moderator of the section, an English speaking young Latino who ironically struggled with his Spanish-language presentation. I’m pretty sure that a young woman who testified about her struggle to graduate from university while being undocumented was one of my classmates at UC Berkeley last year.
A representative of then Arab Resource and Organizing Center drew links from Secure Communities to the Joint Terrorism Task Force and its impact on Arab, South Asian and Muslim communities, in terms of the use of local police forces to ensnare immigrants into federal criminal proceedings.
Several elected officials also addressed the crowd . Jesse Arreguin, a Berkeley Council member, also spoke to the crowd, and reaffirmed the Council’s support for the TRUST Act, and the Council’s forthcoming resolution on Secure Communities. A representative of City Council member Jane Kim also reiterated support for immigrant communities as well as a representative of the Human Rights Commission of Sonoma and the Contra Costa School Board.
Finally, a representative of Tom Ammiano’s office—the state legislator who sponsored the TRUST ACT–spoke, but was vague about the fate of the legislation in light of the Obama administration’s recent confirmation that there is no program opt-out. While the TRUST Act would have ostensibly given counties in California the option to opt out of Secure Communities, its unclear how it will affect participation in the national program.
You can download and/or stream an audio recording of the entire forum here: [note: the program was mostly conducted in Spanish, with simultaneous translation for English speakers provided via headset]