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The HOME Act is almost home as a California law – Governor Newsom just has to sign it

Posted by Sara Cooper | Sep 13, 2023 | 0 Comments

Earlier this week, state legislators made consideration into allowance for incarcerated immigrants to have access to the pathway for citizenship once reentering in society, not handled by ICE thereafter which has been the main occurrence.

Approval from the California Senate with a vote of 29-9 for a bill that would prohibit state officials giving transfer approval to immigration federal authorities for prisoners who have immigrant status. The bill, known as the HOME Act, now goes to Gov. Gavin Newsom's desk. He has until Oct. 14 to decide whether to sign it into law.

This bill getting to the governor's office is an accomplishment within itself, as advocates have urged lawmakers to get rid of this horrific practice with CDCR being in correspondence with ICE with notifying them of people who were not born in the U.S. despite them completing their sentences, leading to possible detention and even deportation.

“The existing state sanctuary laws have not covered people in CDCR custody, and that's been heartbreaking for a lot of families who've been separated because an individual obtained release from state prison but then was handed over to ICE,” said Angela Chan, an immigration expert at the San Francisco Public Defender's Office who helped craft the bill. “To have the HOME Act pass the Legislature, and hopefully, get signed by the governor, means we're going to make a significant dent in covering this glaring gap.”

AB 1306 would bar prison-to-ICE transfers specifically for people who win clemency from the governor or are released from prison under any of several criminal justice reform laws recently enacted in California.

The bill's author, Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo (D-Echo Park), said she was elated by the overwhelming support for the bill, which would allow immigrants to benefit from recent laws that aim to reduce over-incarceration and racial disparities in sentencing.

“It was never the intent of the Legislature to create a dual system of justice that treats immigrants differently and as second-class individuals,” she said. “We now look to the governor in putting a stop to this inhumane practice, which results in the indefinite incarceration of justice-impacted individuals when transferred to immigration detention centers to serve an additional sentence that is never handed down by a criminal court or a judge.”

Under federal immigration law, even legal permanent residents with green cards can lose their lawful status and be deported if they have committed certain crimes, according to KQED. Even though this bill would not prevent ICE from trying to find these individuals after being in jail, it would make the severity of their involvement with facilities much less.

The HOME Act was based on last year's bill of the VISION Act which was less limited by blocking all transfers from prison to ICE. It had failed in the state Legislature in August 2022.

One of the Democrat senators was Sen. Susan Talamantes Eggman.

“Last year's bill was far more expansive than I could support due to public safety concerns,” Eggman told KQED. “This year's bill is a more measured approach that protects immigrants and helps keep families together without putting public safety at risk.”

ICE does not put forth any response when it comes to legislation that is in progress.

The Peace Officers Research Association of California opposed the broader VISION Act last year, but chose not to take a position on the HOME Act.

On average, nearly 1,600 people come out of state prison each year with an immigration detainer that leads to their transfer to ICE to be deported, according to an estimate by state Senate staff.

The HOME Act would bar prisons from handing over noncitizens to ICE who are being released as a result of several criminal justice reforms signed by Gov. Newsom or his predecessor, Jerry Brown. They include:

  • People eligible for compassionate release or parole because they are older or suffering severe medical conditions.
  • People eligible for early parole after serving a set amount of time because their crimes were committed in their youth.
  • People whose crimes were a direct result of having been victims of sexual assault or domestic violence.
  • People eligible for release because they demonstrate that racial bias affected their case.
  • People eligible for resentencing because they were originally convicted under the felony murder rule but did not kill anyone.

Legal protection for people who their sentences were commuted by the governor would also be granted under the bill. Compared to the failed VISION Act, the HOME Act's main focus would be to bar transfers by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Coming soon, advocates will be making efforts to influence Newsom to sign and pass the bill into law, and Chan brought forth the importance of how both the Senate and Assembly with supermajorities where vetoes were not even a possibility.

“We are going to hold his feet to the fire and make sure that we strongly encourage him to sign the HOME Act into law,” she said. “He certainly hasn't said anything yet, so we're reading the tea leaves. But we're pretty hopeful because the bills have passed the legislature with no opposition.”

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