Special to The Vanguard
SACRAMENTO, CA – Marking one year since California aided Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) deportation of domestic violence survivor Gabby Solano, California parents, community groups, faith leaders, union workers, re-entry counselors, other residents in the ICE Out of CA coalition, and state legislators rallied in Sacramento earlier this week, and urged Gov. Newsom to champion a key immigrant and racial justice bill, the VISION Act (AB 937-Carrillo).
The widely-supported bill, with 25 co-authors in the California legislature, would end the double punishment of Californians who earn release after serving their time in prison or jail, and instead allow people to return to their families and rebuild their lives.
Community members who have experienced the pain of ICE transfers first hand have led efforts across the state to advance the VISION Act, which is currently pending on the Senate floor after already passing the Assembly and two Senate committees.
As part of the growing movement to end ICE transfers, Californians are emphasizing that when immigrants and refugees are able to come home through the VISION Act—families will be reunited, and more community members will be giving back as firefighters, re-entry navigators, union members, business owners, nonprofit leaders, students, and essential workers.
Californians calling for the VISION Act were joined on the Capitol Grounds by VISION Act author Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo, Sen. Scott Wiener, and other lawmakers.
VISION Act author Carrillo bluntly remarked, “I’m done with our immigrant community being seen as anything else other than loving, thriving members of our community. I am tired of a California justice system that double punishes immigrants who have served their time, who have paid their debt to society, and who simply want to be able to come home, restart their lives, and be with their families.”
Carrillo added, “I am tired of having to support a justice system in the state of California that treats citizens one way and immigrants in a different way…that means residents, that means permanent residents, that means temporary residents, that means refugees, that means TPS recipients, and yes that can also mean undocumented families.
“Either we believe in a justice system that treats everyone equally or we continue to support a justice system that treats people unequal. The VISION Act is about ensuring a California justice system that intentionally treats people the same,” the state lawmaker said.
“No matter where we were born or what we look like, most Californians want the same things: to be with our loved ones and our communities. The VISION Act is about equality in a state that takes pride in welcoming more immigrants than any other,” said Solano, who called into the rally after being deported to Mexico one year ago.
“After being criminalized as a domestic violence survivor, I became a substance counselor in prison and took more than 1,000 hours of rehabilitation classes. Gov. Brown commuted my sentence and the parole board decided to grant me release.”
But, she added, “ICE and our state prison system ignored all of that and instead ripped me apart from my family and loved ones. My story isn’t unique; it’s the status quo in California until we pass the VISION Act and live up to our best ideals of equality and justice.”
Sen. Wiener said, “California authorities and our prison system and others, without being required to do so, are just turning people over to ICE—people who have completed their sentence, paid their debt to society, they’ve done
everything that we’ve asked them to do, and they are being released and when we release people from prison, the idea is to re-integrate them into society, to give them the tools to succeed.”
Wiener added, “(A)nd instead we’re saying, ‘okay you’ve paid your debt…oops, we’re going to give you over to ICE.’ That is inhumane. It is unacceptable…It is so wrong and so contrary to California values where we believe that
everyone, including immigrants, are part of our community and we believe in redemption.”
After marching from the Capitol Grounds to the Annex building, immigrant community members and supporters delivered a powerful letter to the governor signed by more than 140 Californian immigrants and their loved ones who have faced ICE transfers, detention, and deportation, including Robert Vivar and Liyah Birru.
In the letter urging the governor to meet with them and support the VISION Act, they wrote:
“After serving our sentences, investing countless hours in rehabilitation programs, being found suitable for parole and/or doing everything the state of California required of us, we looked forward to starting our re-entry plans and
giving back to our communities.
“But on our scheduled release date, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations (CDCR) or our local Sheriff, coordinated with ICE to facilitate our immediate ICE detention and deportation.”
The ICE Out of CA coalition also released a new photo album that captures stories from across the state, including the families and communities who are stronger when people like Maria Luna, Brian Bukle, Vithea Yung, and Phoeun You can come home just like any other Californian who has served their time, been granted parole, or had charges dropped.
“Only a handful of Californians, like me, have been among the lucky few who have been able to get out of ICE detention as a result of tireless community advocacy,” said Chanthon Bun, who was threatened with ICE detention in 2020 and now serves as an immigrant rights advocate at the Asian Law Caucus.
He added, “Because I was able to come home, I’m living a beautiful, peaceful life with my newborn and my family. But we continue to live with the fear of ICE. My family and friends have been urging Governor Newsom to issue a pardon so that we have more protection, but we also know that it doesn’t have to be this way.
“With the VISION Act, we can uphold the best of our values in a state where about half of all children, like my son, have an immigrant parent,” Bun noted.
A poll conducted by UC San Diego’s US Immigration Policy Center last year found that two-thirds of voters back the VISION Act.
The bill is co-sponsored by 25 legislators and supported by the California Democratic Party, Black Legislative Caucus, Latino Legislative Caucus, and the API Legislative Caucus; over 180 organizations; Black Lives Matter-California; the Law Enforcement Action Partnership; veterans groups; and several key labor unions and federations, along with numerous Jewish organizations and Rabbis.
The Alliance for Boys and Men of Color estimates that transfers to ICE of people eligible for release from local jails alone cost $7.3 million in 2018 to 2019. Meanwhile, while only seven percent of non-citizens in the U.S. are Black, Black immigrants made up 20 percent of people facing deportation on “criminal grounds” in the U.S. in 2016, according to data from the Black Alliance for Just Immigration.
At least eight counties in California have already ended the unjust practice of transferring immigrant community members to ICE, as have Illinois, Oregon, and Washington, D.C.