SACRAMENTO, CA – Immigrant rights groups called Friday for Gov. Gavin Newsom to end policies they say ease the transfer of prison inmates to federal authorities despite California's efforts to provide a sanctuary to those who are in the country illegally.
The groups asked Newsom to stop prison officials from holding parolees until they can be picked up by federal immigration officials. And they criticized him for vetoing legislation that would have barred private security companies from coming onto prison grounds to pick up immigrants for deportation.
California passed a law in 2017 barring local and state agencies from cooperating with federal immigration authorities over those who have committed certain crimes, mostly misdemeanors, but critics said it doesn't apply to the state prison system.
Corrections spokesman Jeffrey Callison said the department notifies law enforcement agencies of inmates' release dates if the agency files a detainer. If agents show up with an arrest warrant, the inmate is released into their custody.
Many states cooperate with the Trump administration's crackdown on immigrants, but a federal judge last year supported California's sanctuary law.
Newsom has pardoned several Southeast Asian refugees in an effort to keep them from being deported, but groups including the Asian Prisoner Support Committee and Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Asian Law Caucus say he should do more.
His office did not comment despite repeated requests.
Cambodian refugee Borey Ai told about 100 supporters rallying at the state Capitol that he was paroled in 2016 only to be immediately detained by immigration agents for another 18 months, until Cambodia refused to accept him. The California Supreme Court last year took the rare step of blocking former Gov. Jerry Brown's attempt to pardon Ai, who killed a woman when he was 14 years old.
"I'm still in that limbo stage," he said, and could be deported any day.
Ai said he was once a cellmate with Cambodian refugee Tith Ton, who at age 16 killed a rival gang member and has served 22 years in prison. He was recommended for parole in July, though Newsom has not yet decided whether to block his release.
"I've seen Tith transform his life," Ai said. "He's being punished again" if he is deported after serving his time.
Democratic Assemblyman Ash Kalra of San Jose said he was puzzled by Newsom's veto of his bill blocking private companies from picking up paroled immigrants whom he said "have served their time."
Newsom said the bill might interfere with prison operations, but Kalra said the state should not allow the federal government to use "private contractors that have no accountability at all for their behavior."