SAN DIEGO — Far fewer immigrants arrested by California law enforcement are being turned over to federal authorities for deportation since a new state law went into effect in January.
The law was pushed by immigrant advocates and directs law enforcement agencies to more quickly release those without serious criminal records rather than hold them so federal officials can take them into custody for deportation proceedings.
Already, according to a review by the Associated Press, the new law appears to be having a big impact in slowing deportations at a time when President Obama is looking to ease immigration enforcement policies nationwide and appease immigrant advocates who say his administration has been too tough.
Until now, California has accounted for a third of deportations under US Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s Secure Communities program, which screens the fingerprints of arrestees for potential immigration violations.
Although the state law known as the Trust Act was expected to reduce the number of people held for possible deportation, it was not clear how significant the drop would be.
Since sheriff’s departments are responsible for most bookings, the Associated Press surveyed those agencies in 23 counties responsible for most of California’s deportations under the program.
Not all supplied data for the first two months of this year, but among the 15 that did, there was a 44 percent drop, from 2,984 people to 1,660. Those 15 counties included four of the state’s five largest: Los Angeles, San Diego, Riverside, and San Bernardino.
In passing the legislation, California joined Connecticut and more than a dozen local jurisdictions in declining requests for immigration holds. State lawmakers in Massachusetts are considering similar legislation.
ICE declined to comment. The agency is evaluating the impact of the Trust Act.
Secure Communities has led to more than 300,000 deportations since October 2008. The program has immigration agents screen the fingerprints of arrestees and ask local law enforcement to hold for 48 hours those they want to deport until they can pick them up and take them to a detention facility.