Juana Reyes makes money by selling homemade tamales outside a very busy Wal-Mart. After two years, security told her to leave and when she came back, the undocumented immigrant from Mexico was arrested recently. "The arresting officer was telling my kids, "They're going to send your mom back to Mexico. You're never going to see her again,'" she said.
The single mother of two with no criminal record spent 13 days in jail. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE, had asked local authorities to hold her on a federal detainer and her American-born kids were put in foster care. "When I was at the foster home, I felt bad. I was crying for my mom," Juana's son Cesar Cuesto said.
A bill called the California Trust Act is one hurdle away from getting to Gov. Jerry Brown's desk. Think of it as the anti-Arizona law. The Trust Act allows law enforcement to ignore federal detainer requests and release illegal immigrants if they're not a public safety threat and haven't had any serious or violent felony convictions. "Under the Trust Act, Ms. Reyes' shameful and extended detention would have been prevented," Jon Rodney at the California Immigrant Policy Center said.
The California Sheriffs' Association opposes the measure because it puts deputies between the feds and illegal immigrants. The organization says ICE typically doesn't explain why a person needs to be further detained, so somebody dangerous could be let go. "People that are domestic violence, car thieves, a whole host of things, as long as it's not serious and violent, you're going to have those people being released out of facilities," says Curtis Hill with the California Sheriffs' Association.
Juana now faces deportation. "It's not fair or just, what they're doing to me," she said.
The Sheriff's Association thinks the proposal is unconstitutional because states have no authority over immigration issues, but Trust Act supporters point out that local governments in Illinois and Wisconsin have similar laws in effect.