The California Values Act and the CLETS network

The ICE Secure Communities deportation program was instituted in 2008, under the administration of George W. Bush. A 2009 Strategic Plan described the program's goals as to better identify criminal aliens, prioritize enforcement actions on those posing the greatest threat to public safety, and transform the entire criminal alien enforcement process.

That transformation would be accomplished by granting the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, to which Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) belongs, access to biometric data stored in FBI databases.

Local law enforcement agencies send fingerprint data to the FBI to see if detained individuals have criminal records or outstanding warrants. Under Secure Communities, the FBI automatically forwards the fingerprints to ICE, which compares the received data against its own immigration databases.

If the comparisons reveal that an individual is in the United States illegally, ICE can place an “immigration detainer” on him. The detainer is a request that a detained alien be held for up to 48 hours beyond his scheduled release date, so that ICE can take custody and initiate the deportation process.

The ICE Secure Communities program was discontinued by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson in November 2014, and was restarted per an executive order signed by President Donald Trump in January 2017.

California's ‘Trust Act’ of 2013

In October 2103, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the Trust Act, the purpose of which was to restrict the ability of state and local authorities to hold aliens for deportation at the request of federal immigration agencies. Important exceptions were made for aliens who had committed a range of serious crimes, such as violent crimes, non-violent felony offenses or felony DUI offenses.

The Trust Act was specifically designed to challenge the federal Secure Communities program. Critics of the program complained that it was responsible for the deportation of many otherwise law-abiding immigrants.

President Donald Trump's Executive Order 13768

On January 25, 2017, less than a week after President Trump's inauguration, Executive Order 13768 was signed. Titled Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States, the directive penalized sanctuary cities and states, which were described in Section 1 of the EO like this:

Sanctuary jurisdictions across the United States willfully violate Federal law in an attempt to shield aliens from removal from the United States. These jurisdictions have caused immeasurable harm to the American people and to the very fabric of our Republic.

“Sanctuary jurisdictions” were defined more precisely as cities or states in open defiance of 8 U.S. Code § 1373 Communication between government agencies and the Immigration and Naturalization Service, which states:

Notwithstanding any other provision of Federal, State, or local law, a Federal, State, or local government entity or official may not prohibit, or in any way restrict, any government entity or official from sending to, or receiving from, the Immigration and Naturalization Service information regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual.

Section 9 of EO 13768 specified the penalties:

Sec. 9. Sanctuary Jurisdictions. It is the policy of the executive branch to ensure, to the fullest extent of the law, that a State, or a political subdivision of a State, shall comply with 8 U.S.C. 1373.

(a) In furtherance of this policy, the Attorney General and the Secretary [of Homeland Security], in their discretion and to the extent consistent with law, shall ensure that jurisdictions that willfully refuse to comply with 8 U.S.C. 1373 (sanctuary jurisdictions) are not eligible to receive Federal grants, except as deemed necessary for law enforcement purposes by the Attorney General or the Secretary.

In November of the same year that the EO was issued, Section 9(a) of Executive Order 13768 was perversely declared unconstitutional and blocked by a nationwide permanent injunction, by a U.S. District Judge in the Northern District of California.

California Senate Bill 54, a.k.a. the “California Values Act”

California Senate Bill 54 of 2017, commonly called the California Values Act, prevents state and local law enforcement agencies from using their resources to investigate or arrest individuals for immigration law enforcement purposes. It also barred holding anyone in jail past their scheduled release date on behalf of ICE.

The California Values Act was introduced on the first day of the 2017 California legislative session, in direct response to President Donald Trump’s executive order and stated plans to step up immigration law enforcement. “Resources” now off-limits to federal immigration agencies prominently include state and local law enforcement databases.

The California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (CLETS)

This week, the Electronic Frontier Foundation reported that the California Department of Justice has disconnected the U.S. Department of Homeland Security from the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System. CLETS is a master network used by law enforcement agencies to access databases holding information on driver’s licenses, criminal records and other subjects.

One of the California Values Act’s provisions requires the state's Attorney General to ensure that state and local law enforcement databases are not used to enforce immigration law. In February, the California Department of Justice updated its regulations to prohibit agencies from accessing CLETS in order to service requests from ICE agents.

ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations was asked to sign an agreement that its agents wouldn’t use California databases for immigration law enforcement purposes. ICE ERO refused to sign and, as a result, lost access to the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System.

Californians can now feel secure in the knowledge that they can horde their illegal aliens like forty-niners hoarded their precious discoveries during the California Gold Rush.

Disclaimer: Information on this website is not legal advice.