California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed the TRUST Act last night, handing a major victory to the anti-immigrant movement. The fight isn’t over–but first, a post-mortem:
The TRUST Act would have been the first state-wide detainer policy, preventing local law enforcement from becoming pawns in the federal immigration dragnet. Leveraging what Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach calls “the quintessential force multiplier,” Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has turned every police officer in the country into an agent of family separation. Worse yet, sheriffs eager to kick out the “taco-eaters” have found a new ally in ICE in their racial profiling schemes. The TRUST Act, many hoped, would be the beginning of the end to all that.
Led by the National Day Laborers Organizing Network, organizations from California and beyond made a strong case for the bill, and even won the support of some of the state’s law enforcement. The bill passed both chambers of the California legislature, landing on the Governor’s desk–a Democratic governor’s desk at that.
When the moment of truth came, Brown dithered–along with the TRUST Act, Brown vetoed the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights and the Farm Worker Safety Act; the latter two bills would have helped low-wage workers, many of whom are people of color, out of poverty and potentially save their lives. Specifically, the Farm Worker Safety Act would allow workers to sue their employers for violating heat standards and putting their lives at risk. Now we know who to blame for next summer’s heat deaths in California farm fields.
The powerful anti-immigrant groups like FAIR and the Center for Immigration Studies have found a friend and ally in ICE Director John Morton, who had the governor’s ear as he weighed his decision. Citing many of the same misleading tropes about immigrants that FAIR uses in their campaign to keep America white, Brown slapped down the TRUST Act playing to fears about criminal immigrants roaming the streets. It bears repeating that if Morton did his job and actually utilized ICE discretionary policy on “low-priority” deportations, the TRUST Act would be unnecessary.
As bad as yesterday may have been, remember that our greatest victories are still ahead of us. The immigrant rights movement needs to be more aggressive, and be willing to challenge anyone who stands in the way of a more just and open society. As the political winds keep shifting, activists should time and again return to their roots and fight from the ground up. A year ago, few thought that something like the TRUST Act was possible, nor the new deferred action program being carried out by USCIS, or the hundreds of deportations being stopped by immigrant communities organizing in their own defense. As is becoming more common to say in our world “the only secure community is an organized one.”