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Calif. lawmaker makes renewed attempt to restrict transfer of non-citizen prisoners to federal ICE

The HOME Act would apply to non-citizens who fall under certain categories, including people who are sick and dying and some people who received convictions as youth


A California lawmaker is making a third attempt to limit state prisons from transferring non-citizens to federal immigration custody after completion of their sentences.

Xavier Mascareñas/The Sacramento Bee/TNS

By Mathew Miranda
The Sacramento Bee

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A California lawmaker is making a third attempt to limit state prisons from transferring non-citizens to federal immigration custody after completion of their sentences — what advocates call a “double punishment.”

This year, Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo, D-Los Angeles, has authored a narrower version of the legislation to increase its chances. A similar bill fell three votes short in the Senate last year amid public safety concerns.

Carrillo’s latest bill, named the HOME Act, would now apply to non-citizens who fall under certain categories including people who are sick and dying, individuals granted clemency from the governor and some people who received convictions as youth.

“It is long overdue for us to put an end to a dual system of justice in California,” said Carrillo, in a press conference last Wednesday. “A system that double punishes immigrants and refugees for certain crimes only because of the country they were born in.”

In previous versions, the legislation would have covered most non-citizens in state prisons and jails. The new measure only applies to prisons.

Though California law prohibits local police and sheriffs from cooperating with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for some crimes, the rules do not apply to prisons.

Advocates believe the 2023 measure, if passed, can be built upon with follow-up legislation.

“It’s not all ICE transfers, yet, but it really gets at the heart of the fact that we need to start to harmonize this progress that we have made on criminal justice reform and make sure that we’re not leaving people out,” said Salvador Sarmiento, a campaigns director for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network.

That “progress” refers to the last 10 years of legislation addressing California’s relationship with federal immigration authorities.

In 2013, the state approved the “Trust Act” which set a minimum standard to limit immigration hold requests in local jails. Three years later, California passed the “Truth Act” to require more transparency from law enforcement when dealing with immigration enforcement. Most recently, in 2018, the “Values Act” ensures state and local resources are not used to assist federal immigration enforcement.

“These broadly-supported criminal justice reform laws are a step toward addressing that bigger issue of transfers from the state prison system to ICE,” said Carl Takei, a criminal justice reform program manager at Asian Law Caucus.

On Tuesday, Carillo’s legislation was approved in the Assembly Judiciary Committee with a 8-3 vote. It now heads to the Assembly Appropriations Committee, where potential costs of the bill will be estimated. Advocates expect lower costs than the previous legislation.

Last year’s bill was estimated to have cost the state $22 million per year, according to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. ICE transfers cost the state an estimated $10.3 million every two years.

Prison officials also predicted supervising roughly 2,500 more parolees who otherwise would have been deported.

At the time of the Senate vote, nine Democrats senators abstained from voting. The measure also faced opposition from Republican legislators and law enforcement organizations.

The Peace Officers Research Association of California, who opposed last year’s bill, was not immediately available for comment.

Carrillo’s office and advocates could not provide an estimate how many people would qualify for protection from ICE. But the state prison system transferred nearly 2,200 people to ICE from Jan. 2020 to July 2021, according to the Asian Law Caucus.

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