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Free Angel Mendoza! Sact'o Sheriff collaborated with ICE in violation of TRUST Act
On April 19, Angel Mendoza Herrera was pulled over by the California Highway Patrol for allegedly littering and was later suspected to be driving under the influence. After he had passed all the DUI tests and the officers were prepared to release him, another CHP vehicle arrived and this officer insisted that Mendoza be brought in for booking at the local jail run by the Sacramento Sheriff department.
Within six hours, Mendoza, who had committed no crime, was transferred into ICE custody despite no charges having been brought against him. By April 20 when his family finally got in touch with him he had been transferred out of state to New Mexico by ICE.
The separation of families by local law enforcement in collaboration with ICE agencies is nothing new. What has changed since January is a law passed in California called the TRUST Act. The law prohibits local law enforcement from cooperating with ICE in situations where a felony has not been committed. (CA TRUST Act link http://www.catrustact.org/)
The Sacramento Immigration Alliance, a local immigrant rights group, has been working for months to hold the Sheriff's office accountable to the TRUST Act. The Sheriff’s office is particularly important in Sacramento because they run the two jails and thus have the authority to decide whether to collaborate with ICE or not. SIA reached out to the County Sheriff Scott Jones to open the dialogue about the accountability regarding the implementation of the TRUST Act in Sacramento County.
When the department did not reply with a concrete commitment to honor the TRUST Act, SIA organized a large community forum to address the matter on March 24. Sheriff Jones failed to attend but Captain Tom Adris representing Jones only had a few answers to the numerous community concerns.
SIA has teamed up with the Party for Socialism and Liberation, the Brown Berets, Primero de Mayo, several lawyers and the Mendoza family to halt Angel Mendoza’s unjust deportation and hold the Sheriff accountable to the TRUST Act.
At the April 24 meeting with the Sheriff’s department, around 20 community members turned out in support. Present were Angel Mendozas’ family including his two young children, local professors, students and activists, Mendoza’s lawyer, Raissa Morris and the Senior Staff Attorney, Angel Chan (who is leading the drafting of the enforcement provisions for the TRUST Act).
The Deputy Sheriff was surprised by the large crowd and did not want to meet with the people, but after seeing their determination he agreed to meet. The family spoke out about what a good person Angel is, and how he has been working hard for 20 years as a roofer to provide for his family. When a sheriff’s deputy tried to look up Angel’s record and was surprised to find nothing, the family exclaimed “That’s because he is such a good person, he has never been in trouble!” Feeling the pressure Deputy Fitch admitted they had violated the TRUST Act and agreed to help stop the pending deportation.
Two days later the department had completely changed their position. They are now denying any responsibility for Mendoza’s transfer into ICE custody and thus would no longer help stop his deportation which was scheduled for May 6. The Sheriff's first tried to put the blame on the CHP officers who made the initial arrest. Then the department blamed their computer system which they say flagged Mendoza and alerted ICE without the their department’s knowledge, even though immigrant rights activist and lawyers have been addressing the computer system for months.
On May 5 outraged Sacramento immigrant rights activists along with the Mendoza family turned out in front of the Sacramento Sheriff's office to demonstrate in support for Angel Mendoza and the TRUST Act. They held signs demanding freedom for Angel and for the Sheriff to obey the TRUST Act.
Demonstration wins victory
Following the demonstration the Sheriff's office conceded that they would meet one of the longstanding demands to remove the automatic flagging component in the computer system. The deportation has been delayed due to filed asylum status request, but he is still in danger of deportation. Meanwhile an innocent man will sit in a detention center away from his family for what could be months or even half a year.
This case clearly highlights the need to build a strong immigrant’s rights movement. Only a united movement of community, immigrant rights activists and lawyers can free Angel Mendoza. More than two million people have been deported under the Obama administration. This unjust oppressive system will continue to ruin the lives of workers unless we stand up and fight back!
Content may be reprinted with credit to LiberationNews.org.