Three San Diego County Police Chiefs Back TRUST Act to Limit Deportations

SAN DIEGO –  Momentum for support of California’s TRUST Act, a nationally watched bill that would limit deportations stemming from low-level arrests, continues to grow with endorsements of three of the county’s top law enforcement officers: San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne, Chula Vista Police Chief David Bejarano, and National City Police Chief Manuel Rodriguez. Each of the police chiefs released a letter declaring their support. [See the three letters by clicking links in right-hand column.]

Besides limiting deportations, which often tear families apart, the TRUST Act (AB 4) will rebuild community confidence in local law enforcement, which has been badly damaged by the federal deportation program, “Secure Communities” or S-Comm. “It is my opinion that “Secure” communities program has reduced the number of victims and witness in immigrant communities and thus made our communities less safe,” wrote Chief Lansdowne in his support letter.

The backing from the police chiefs—two of whom represent San Diego’s two largest cities—comes on the heels of a high-profile letter by 28 members of California’s Congressional Delegation urging Gov. Brown to sign the bill when it reaches his desk. Similarly, a letter signed by several scores of legal professionals and law professors published Monday urges the governor to sign the bill without adding harmful amendments.

Under S-Comm’s original purpose, local law enforcement  runs the fingerprints of people they arrest through an immigration database at the request of federal immigration agents to identify immigrants with criminal backgrounds. But in reality, the program has far more frequently held immigrants arrested for low-level, non-violent offenses—or no crime at all—at local expense, and led ultimately to their deportation. This results in costly, extended detentions of community members who would otherwise be released by local law enforcement agents. Even survivors of domestic violence and other crime victims have faced deportation as a result.

Nearly 100,000 Californians have been deported since the program’s inception, a decisive majority of whom had either no convictions or minor ones according to ICE’s own data. Proponents of the TRUST Act agree with the police chiefs’ assessment that S-Comm and other federal deportation policies make our communities less safe, because immigrants are less inclined to cooperate with law enforcement agents, either as witnesses to or victims of crime.

Chiefs Lansdowne, Bejarano, and Rodriguez, with nearly 90 years of shared law enforcement experience between them, join San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr, East Palo Alto Police Chief Ronald Davis, and a broad coalition of faith, labor, and community organizations in supporting the TRUST Act.

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