Momentum growing for bill to end double-punishment of immigrant Californians, as emotional testimony from community members shows the human cost of ICE transfers; and new data estimates transfers to ICE cost taxpayers in excess of $7.3 million last year.
- Unai Montes-Irueste
- Communications Director
(Sacramento, CA) — Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo’s (D-Los Angeles) AB 937, the Voiding Inequality and Seeking Inclusion for Our Immigrant Neighbors Act, (VISION Act) to end the double punishment of immigrant Californians released from state prisons or local jails was announced as a 2021 priority for the California Latino Legislative Caucus on April 7. A double referred bill, AB 937 had to be introduced through two separate hearing processes. It found legislative success in both. The Assembly Public Safety Committee voted to pass the VISION Act on April 6, and the Judiciary Committee voted to pass it on April 20.
Selection by the Latino Caucus, and the Public Safety Committee and Judiciary Committee’s support votes, underscore the growing momentum to pass the VISION Act, which has won the support of 42 organizations and over 16 legislative co-sponsors. The Los Angeles Times recently published an op-ed from Thai Viet Phan, a member of the Santa Ana City Council, urging passage of the VISION Act, and the Alliance for Boys and Men of Color unveiled an infographic highlighting the harm of ICE transfers, estimating that transfers to ICE of people eligible for release from local jails alone, stuck taxpayers with a bill for more than $7.3 million dollars last year.
The transfer of community members from state prisons and local jails to ICE detention has drawn mounting opposition over the past year, with a growing number of public health experts, faith leaders, elected officials, and family members of incarcerated Californians urging an end to transfers. The stories of community members like Kao Saelee, an incarcerated firefighter who remains in ICE custody, have drawn widespread attention. Many other community members have experienced the same abuses.
During hearings in the Assembly, legislators heard moving testimony from Joe Mejia and Maria "Kanaka" Luna, two formerly incarcerated Californians who experienced the harm of ICE transfers first hand after completing their sentences and changing their lives will testify before the committee. (More information on these speakers available here).
Selection by the Latino Caucus, and the Public Safety Committee and Judiciary Committee votes came shortly after the state prison system (CDCR) transferred domestic violence survivor Gabby Solano to ICE after she completed a 22-year sentence, sparking community outrage, national press coverage, and calls for action online.
Assemblywoman Carrillo took to Twitter to share a letter she wrote Governor Newsom requesting that he use his Constitutional power to send Gabby home to her family:
People in prison and detention are disproportionately Black and Brown due to structural racism and are often survivors of abuse. Meanwhile, while only 7% of non-citizens in the U.S. are Black, Black immigrants made up 20% of people facing deportation on criminal grounds in the U.S in 2016. People who are deported often face abuse and even death, with one study finding that at least 138 people were killed after being deported from the U.S. to El Salvador.
AB 937 would ensure that like any other Californian, an immigrant deemed eligible for release from state prison or local jail would not be turned over to ICE detention and instead would be able to reunite with their family and community. This includes a person who has completed their sentence, been granted parole, had charges dropped, or been granted release by a judge.
The VISION Act would ensure that Californians who are refugees and immigrants are included in important reforms the state enacted in recent years which allow people to reduce certain convictions, and provide more opportunities for people to be considered for release on parole through the rigorous Board of Parole Hearings process.
Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo was elected as the representative of the 51st Assembly District in December of 2017. She is the Chair of Budget SubCommittee #4 on State Administration, and a member of the Appropriations, Budget, Health, Privacy and Consumer Protection, and Utilities and Energy Committees, as well as Chair of the Uplifting Girls and Women of Color in California Select Committee. Assemblywoman Carrillo represents the people of East Los Angeles, Northeast Los Angeles, and the neighborhoods of El Sereno, Echo Park, Lincoln Heights, Chinatown and parts of Silver Lake.