Monday, 08 April 2013 19:49

Lawsuit Filed Against Federal Agencies to Uncover Possible Influence on Immigration Bill

 Freedom of Information Act Suit to Shed Light on Tactics to Halt California TRUST Act

SAN FRANCISCO, April 9, 2013—The Asian Law Cacus, a legal and civil rights organization serving low-income Asian Pacific American communities, has sued federal immigration authorities for information about whether they helped defeat a bill meant to limit entanglement between California law enforcement and U.S. immigration agencies.

The lawsuit seeks information from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency and the Department of Homeland Security under the Freedom of Information Act about possible efforts to encourage the Governor’s office and state sheriff’s association to oppose the TRUST Act, AB-4.

Had the TRUST Act passed last year, it would have restricted California's involvement in the Secure Communities program, which relies on local police to hold individuals suspected of being deportable upon arrest until ICE can pick them up for possible deportation. Last summer, the bill reached Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk with robust support from both legislative houses, but he vetoed it. 

The suit was filed today in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California by the Asian Law Caucus, represented by the UC Irvine School of Law’s Immigrant Rights Clinic.   

As the California TRUST Act--and similar bills in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Florida--advances this year, the suit seeks to inform the public about any role federal immigration officials may have played in hindering it. Had the TRUST Act passed last year, it would have reduced the high volume of deportations caused by the Secure Communities program in the state. Since its inception, the program has deported 93,000 Californians.

Because of ICE’s history of behind-the-scenes pressure on localities seeking relief from the burden of its programs, advocates are especially concerned about the potential for continued undue influence over the democratic process. In 2011, ICE’s pattern of misinformation on the federal Secure Communities program prompted the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to call for a moratorium on the program and was described by Calif. Rep. Zoe Lofgren as "dishonest and dissembling.”

"Did ICE's behind-the-scenes maneuvers last year quash community efforts to stop thousands of cruel and costly deportations?” asked Angela Chan, Senior Staff Attorney at the Asian Law Caucus. “We filed this lawsuit to vindicate the public's right to know. We urgently need to pass the TRUST Act this year to repair the relationship between police and immigrant communities undermined by ICE's so-called ‘Secure Communities’ deportation program.” 

“We are demanding the prompt release of the requested documents so that the public can participate in the ongoing debate about this bill in an informed manner,” said Jennifer Chin, a law student with the Immigrant Rights Clinic.