Friday, July 13, 2012

California Legislature Contemplates the TRUST ACT

The California Legislature recently passed the TRUST Act and the bill has been sent to the Governor so signature. The bill aims to correct the inherent flaws of the federal Secure Communities program.

For nearly three years, the Obama administration has advertised the Secure Communities program as a targeted enforcement tool that identifies "dangerous criminal aliens" for deportation. Over and over, federal officials have insisted that the program's focus would be chiefly limited to those immigrants whose criminal convictions show that they pose a danger to public safety.

But that's not the case. In practice, Secure Communities is a dragnet that fails to distinguish between felons convicted of serious crimes and nonviolent arrestees facing civil immigration violations. In California alone, more than half of the 75,000 people deported under the program since it began in 2009 had no criminal history or had only misdemeanor convictions.

Under the program, local law enforcement agencies are required to send the fingerprints of everyone booked into local jails to the FBI, which checks them against criminal databases. Department of Homeland Security officials then check the prints against immigration records and issue requests, known as "detainers," to local authorities asking them to hold particular individuals for 48 hours. As a result, immigrants arrested for illegal street vending or driving without a license who would ordinarily be released have to sit in jail for two days. After that, they are either transferred to federal custody or released, although some end up in jail for longer.

Local officials across the country are deeply concerned about having to spend their scarce resources filling already overcrowded jails with non-dangerous arrestees, and are also concerned that the program will undermine law enforcement by deterring immigrants from cooperating with police. So California lawmakers have passed the Trust Act, which would require police to release those who have posted bail, face no serious charges and have no prior serious criminal convictions, despite federal detainers. Officials in New York, the District of Columbia and Cook County, Ill., already have similar rules in place.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Prosecutorial Discretion Clinic in San Francisco on July 14, 2012

Our office has received many phone calls of the last few weeks asking about the June 15, 2012 announcement from President Obama that his administration will grant temporary relief in the form of prosecutorial discretion to any "Dream Act" eligible young person.

It is my understanding that this relief is temporary, for a two-year period, and anyone granted discretion will be eligible for an EAD Card, or work authorization. As there has been a tremendous amount of interest, many San Francisco Immigration Service Providers have joined together for a workshop on July 15, 2012, at Golden Gate University in San Francisco to help provide information to the public.

Here is the pertient information:

The San Francisco Immigrant Legal and Educational Network (a coalition of immigrant legal and education service providers which includes the African Advocacy Network, Arab Resource and Organizing Center, Asian Law Caucus, Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach, Causa Justa: Just Cause, Central American Resource Center, Chinese for Affirmative Action, Dolores Street Community Services, Filipino Community Center, La Raza Centro Legal, La Raza Community Resource Center, Mujeres Unidas y Activas, and People Organized to Demand Environmental and Economic Rights) and the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights, along with the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC), Centro Legal de la Raza, Community Legal Services of East Palo Alto (CLSEPA), East Bay Community Law Center, GGU Asian Pacific American Law Students Association, GGU La Raza Law Students Association, and GGU Law Career Services, will be hosting a two part free legal clinic on prosecutorial discretion for pro se (unrepresented) individuals currently in removal proceedings.

 Part I (July 14, 2012): We will provide an overview of prosecutorial discretion, distribute and review a pro se guide for those individuals interested in applying, and provide free legal screenings to evaluate other immigration relief and whether prosecutorial discretion should be pursued. We will ask pro se individuals interested in applying for PD to return to part two of the clinic Saturday, July 28, 2012, with their completed packets so that they may be reviewed by an immigration attorney prior to being submitted. We have a higher need for experienced immigration attorneys for this first part of the clinic.  

Part II (July 28, 2012): We will review prosecutorial discretion requests prepared by individuals using the pro se guide distributed during Part I to make sure they are ready for submission. We will also assist those individuals who are unable to complete a request on their own.

*Due to the Obama administration's June 15, 2012 announcement regarding deferred action for undocumented youth, we will also conduct a brief Know Your Rights presentation during Part I and provide consultations to individuals in proceedings who might qualify for temporary relief under the new guidelines. Clinic info:

 Where: Golden Gate University 536 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94105

When: July 14, 2012, 11:00 – 4:00


July 28, 2012, 11:00 – 4:00

Victory in my Latest Criminal Appeal

The First District Court of Appeal, Division Four, recently issued an opinion in a criminal appeal of a conviction for California Vehicle Code section 10851(a) - Unlawful Driving of a Vehicle. The case name was People v. Martinez and the jury trial took place in Contra Costa County. I was appointed to represent the appellant in the case.

On appeal, I raise one issue, that the trial judge inserted an variant jury instruction that confused the jury and impermissibly lessened the burden of proof for the prosecution. After oral arguments, the court of appeal agreed with my argument and reversed the verdict and remanded the case back to the trial court.

The opinion is presently unpublished, however, I requested that the court consider publishing the opinion to discourage other District Attorneys from seeking to insert variant language into the standard CALCRIM instructions.

The opinion can be seen here