Cardinal Mahony on the Trust Act

Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, archbishop emeritus of Los Angeles, had written to the LA Times, appealing to readers to support the Trust Act. Immigration advocates had been appealing for the passing of the bill. The Trust Act would not allow local law enforcement to detain someone they have arrested under Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) requests unless the arrested person has been charged with a serious felony or has a serious felony conviction. According to advocates, the Trust Act would ensure that arrestees held for minor charges would not be held for a long time and then turned over to immigration authorities for deportation. However, the law would still permit dangerous offenders and convicted felons to be handed over to the ICE for deportation.

According to Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, the signing of the Trust Act would be an important turning point in a wave of immigration reform that has not addressed the needs of the US. According to the Cardinal, current attitudes and rules about immigration separate families and dehumanize some immigrants, rather than building communities. Cardinal Roger M. Mahony has stated that laws such as Secure Communities and the controversial Arizona immigration law have created divisions in society and have harmed many immigrant families.

The Trust Act, according to the Cardinal and others, would also help make the Secure Communities less problematic. The original mandate of Secure Communities was to focus deportation efforts on criminal immigrants. The Secure Communities program allows authorities to compare every arrestee’s fingerprints to those in the ICE database. If a set of fingerprints are flagged by the ICE as belonging to someone of interest, the ICE can request local police to detain the person until the ICE can start deportation proceedings. The problem is that in some instances someone is flagged as deportable mistakenly and then usually must face many delays while the ICE determines next actions.

According to Cardinal Mahony, the Secure Communities program has led to the deportation of 200 000 immigrants since its inception date, and about 70% of those deported had minor offenses or no convictions at all. In addition, the program has mistakenly detained about 3600 US citizens. The mistakes and delays have led many to question Secure Communities. Many experts believe that the program does not live up to its original mandate and instead punishes the innocent and leads to jail overcrowding.

In addition, many feel that Secure Communities and other immigration programs have created distrust between local law enforcement and  immigration communities. Since immigrants are concerned about being wrongfully labeled as deportable, some argue, they may be less likely to report crimes or cooperate with police, fearing immigration issues or deportation. According to supporters of the Trust Act, that legislation would help rebuild the relationship between immigration communities and the police, by ensuring that immigrants are not fearful of deportation when approaching law enforcement.

However, the Trust Act was vetoed by California Gov. Jerry Brown, who said it was “fatally flawed”.