Under the federal government’s Secure Communities program, the Department of Homeland Security accesses fingerprints whenever they’re entered in a local database. Those fingerprints are then screened, and jurisdictions are asked to hold undocumented immigrants at the request of the feds. Critics charge that the Secure Communities program is a massive dragnet that often targets people who haven’t even been accused of any serious crime for deportation. The program has also netted U.S.-born citizens. Local authorities aren’t forced to honor the federal government’s hold—it’s simply a request, made without a warrant.
Under what’s known as the TRUST Act, California chose to stop cooperating with the program in January of this year, except in cases where the person in question is charged or has been convicted of a serious crime.
In California’s Orange Country, however, 25-year-old Samuel Sixtos-Gomez is now facing deportation because of an old warrant for driving without a license. As the OC Weekly’s Gabriel San Román reports, Sixtos-Gomez was walking down the street when local sheriff deputies began questioning him. When it was revealed that he had an outstanding warrant for driving without a license, he was arrested:
The misdemeanor offense for which police arrested Sixtos-Gomez that afternoon falls under the TRUST Act, which became law on Jan. 1 and protects undocumented, low-level offenders from being turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) by law-enforcement agencies. But, on April 18, after several days in the Orange County Jail, Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD) officials allowed ICE agents to fetch Sixtos-Gomez at the jail and transport the 25-year-old to San Bernardino County’s Adelanto Detention Center, a facility run by the Geo Group, a controversial, lawsuit-ridden private for-profit firm. He remains there until an immigration court decides if he should be deported.
Perhaps more alarming, however, is that the OC Weekly writes that the Orange County Sheriff Department’s spokesperson admits his agency violated the TRUST Act: “We’ve acknowledged our error of detaining and releasing Mr. Sixtos-Gomez into the custody of ICE in violation of the TRUST Act on April 18.”
Sixtos-Gomez—who has been deported six times, but returned to the place he’s called home since he was 8—remains in detention. Despite the TRUST Act, federal immigration law will likely back his removal.