L.A. Day Laborers Urge Gov. Jerry Brown To Make Deportations Tougher
The TRUST Act, AB 1081, would break the bond between local and federal law enforcement, which the current deportation program, Secure Communities, fosters.
"What we need is California to lead and be a precedent. We need Governor Jerry Brown to not just say but really do something," said Loyda Alvarado, project coordinator of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON).
The governor has until the end of the week to sign or veto the legislation.
Alvarado said many day laborers without criminal backgrounds have been unfairly targeted by police. She said police should not be enforcing immigration laws but building relationships with the community.
Alvarado said it is important for the community and authorities to trust each other because many undocumented immigrants are too afraid to report crimes for fear of deportation.
"A person who feels safe will better the community," she said.
Jessica Kapp, staff attorney at NDLON, said TRUST is similar to Secure Communities in that it allows undocumented immigrants with criminal backgrounds to be deported. The difference is immigrants could not be transferred from police custody to immigration unless they had a serious or violent felony charge against them.
Day laborer Jose Ucelo spoke at the protest and described his experience with law enforcement after being falsely accused of robbery.
In March, Ucelo said he was standing on a corner looking for work. At approximately 9 a.m., a man hired him and Ucelo worked until 9 p.m. Ucelo said when he requested his pay, the man reached out and struck him and threatened to call the police. Shortly after, Ucelo was arrested and taken to jal in Garden Grove.
The charges against him were dropped but only after Ucelo spent two days in jail. He said the false accuser still has not paid him his wages.
"I think that things will be better if we sign the TRUST Act because we'd have more freedom," Ucelo said. "The day laborers would have more freedom and be able to go to the corner and find more work."
Kapp, who translated Ucelo's story from Spanish to English, added that if the TRUST Act was in place, Ucelo's situation would not have occurred. She said Ucelo did not have a criminal background and would have been able to leave and the charges against him would have been dropped.
The biggest concern that undocumented workers have that Arturo Zepeda, coordinator of the Day Labor Center of Carecen, sees in his work is about deportation and unfair labor practices.
Some employers will threaten undocumented immigrants with deportation to avoid paying wages, he said.
While Zepeda pointed out that deportations will still occur under TRUST, he believes that it will offer reprieve for the "innocent people, mainly from Latino communities, immigrant communities" from deporation.
"They're looking for better living conditions," Zepeda said. "They're just here to contribute to the growing Los Angeles City and contribute to its growth."
Reach Staff Reporter Subrina Hudson here.