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Civics & Democracy

LA State Lawmaker Revives Effort To Stop Prison-To-ICE Transfers

A Vietnamese man in a black polo shirt speaks into a microphone at a podium decorated with the California State Assembly seal, flanked by two women on his right and two men on his left.
Tin Nguyen, the immigrant justice coordinator at VietRISE, speaks in support of the bill at Tuesday's news conference.
(Courtesy California Assembly Democrats YouTube channel)
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For two years, State Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo of Los Angeles tried to push through a bill to stop noncitizens from being transferred to federal immigration authorities after finishing their sentences in California prisons and jails.

But the measure failed to pass the legislature last year, despite passionate support from Latino and Southeast Asian immigrant advocates. Backers say they’re trying to end the “double-punishment” of undocumented individuals and legal permanent residents that is disproportionately affecting their communities.

Now Carrillo is back with a narrower version of the bill, which aims to bar many — but not all — immigrant handovers.

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“We will do whatever it takes to ensure that the immigrant community — regardless of their legal status, or where they were born — receive the same kind of judicial treatment that is equal to everyone else,” Carrillo said from the State Capitol, where the bill cleared the Assembly Public Safety Committee Tuesday.

What the legislation calls for

The new legislation would apply to noncitizens coming out of the state prison system who fall into certain categories, including those who received clemency from the governor or who are sick and dying.

Unlike the previous version, the new measure would not cover non-citizens being held in county jails, which vary in their levels of cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The question is whether the modified bill will be more palatable to those who opposed the original measure, which fell three votes shy of the 21 needed for passage in the State Senate.

Carrillo’s fellow Democrat State Sen. Susan Talamantes Eggman, who represents the western San Joaquin Valley, was one of the "no" votes. She said at the time: “I am not convinced rehabilitation happens.”

Who would be affected

It's not clear how many people would qualify for protection from ICE under the new bill. Carrillo’s office did not provide estimates Tuesday. But for a point of reference, the state prison system transferred nearly 2,200 people to ICE from Jan. 2020 to July 2021, according to a public records request from the Asian Law Caucus.

Those who had lobbied for the previous legislation are now throwing their support behind the new bill.

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Tin Nguyen joined Carrillo at the State House Tuesday, sharing his experience of how he’d been transferred to ICE after serving two decades in prison and having Gov. Jerry Brown commute his sentence. Nguyen had been serving life without possibility of parole for first degree murder committed during a robbery.

“I wasn't born here. So they gave me up to ICE where ICE could continue to punish me,” said Nguyen, who was released from months of detention at the Adelanto ICE Detention Facility after family and politicians lobbied on his behalf.

Nguyen, now the immigrant justice coordinator at VietRISE, called the HOME Act, "the humane thing to do."

The bill heads next to the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

Have a question about Southern California's Asian American communities?
Josie Huang reports on the intersection of being Asian and American and the impact of those growing communities in Southern California.

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