For the last several months, U.S. Congress has stalled on passing immigration reforms. Thousands of families throughout the country hoped that changes in federal law would open the door to more secure immigration statuses, but the immigration bill stalled. In California, however, progress is being made.
Even though immigration is typically handled on a federal level, state officials have tried to help keep families together by limiting seemingly unnecessary deportation proceedings. In 2009, the city of Los Angeles agreed to work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to turn over the fingerprints of those who were arrested in order to initiate deportation proceedings for violent offenders.
In practice, however, the federal agency began deportation proceedings for those charged with minor offenses -- such as traffic violations. This move upset and split up many families that began to establish roots in California. Between 2009 and 2012, almost 12,000 people had been deported because of the program.
Under a new law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, federal immigration officials will not have the same ability to detain and deport those who are suspected of minor criminal offenses. The policy, known as the Trust Act, will allow only serious or violent offenders to be turned over to federal officials to be held and potentially deported.
Although this reform may seem like progress for California residents who were unexpectedly hurtled into deportation hearings, challenges will still exist. Undocumented immigrants can benefit most from seeking criminal defense help when facing charges of any level of severity. Taking this proactive step could prevent hardship and keep families together.
Source: AlJazeera America, "While feds stall, California advances immigration reform," Dorian Merina, Oct. 16, 2013