By Kristin Trent
SACRAMENTO, CA – The California HOME Act won overwhelming senate support in a 29-9 vote in the state Senate this week, and if signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, the bill will allow immigrant individuals who earn release from state prison under existing broadly-supported criminal justice reforms to return directly to their families without being transferred to ICE detention.
The HOME (Harmonizing Our Measures for Equality) Act was authored by Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo (D-Los Angeles) and unveiled during a press conference in April where Carrillo spoke about the importance of the act alongside other legislators, advocates and community members.
“Double-punishment” has been a term widely used in tandem with the HOME Act to elucidate how the bill eradicates ICE intervention post detention sentence, assuring freedom for immigrant Californians, said advocates.
Support for the HOME Act comes in the wake of an ACLU report featured in the LA Times that exposed the alarming extent to which the state prison system reports US Citizens to ICE, “relying on racist assumptions and ignoring their own records.”
The HOME Act is supported by a supermajority from both the Assembly and the Senate in addition to the strong support from over 100 faith, labor, and community organizations and criminal-legal system reform advocates, passing without organizational opposition.
Support from the bill includes famed Labor Leader Dolores Huerta and Retired Superior Court Judge LaDoris Cordell.
Community members’ voices have surged alongside congressional and organizational support, by sharing personal stories and advocating for the harmonization of criminal justice reform and state policy to help reduce mass incarceration and address racism in the legal system.
Laura Hernandez, the executive director of freedom for immigrants, shared her own support of the bill.
Said Hernandez, “It’s hard to contain the tears. Knowing that people who qualify for release under existing reforms would not be subjected to a cruel double punishment simply because of their geographic location of birth.”
“I know what it feels like to fear transfers and deportation after 15 years of incarceration. The fear is tangible. I still remember the taste it left in my mouth and the feeling in my stomach. It is something no one should ever have to experience,” Hernandez added.
“The HOME Act is the first step in which we acknowledge the harms of detention by treating our people with dignity. The many calls I get with people fearing for their lives because of both the known and unknown of immigration detention will not end, but they will be less. And for that, I am grateful. We still have work to do, and we will get to it, but for now, for this moment, I can feel hopeful,” Hernandez noted.
Sandra Castañeda, a community member who was subjected to ICE transfer and testified in support of the bill, added, “I’ll never forget the moment when I was supposed to be released from prison. After serving nine years for a shooting I did not commit and even being ordered released by a judge, I couldn’t wait to be home. My loved ones were outside, ready to welcome me. But CDCR turned me over to ICE.
“I now know this was part of a whole pattern of racist practices. I spent the next year in ICE detention in Georgia. This was a nightmare that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. The HOME Act is a small change, but it would have made all the difference in my life. I look forward to the Governor signing the bill and advancing our goals of equity and justice.”