AB 937 would ensure that immigrants who serve their sentences, are ordered released aren’t transferred to ICE detention.
By Wendy Carrillo
Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo, a Democrat from Los Angeles, represents the 51st Assembly District, Assemblymember.Carrillo@assembly.ca.gov.
Gabby Solano, Special to CalMatters
Gabby Solano, a survivor of domestic violence, served a 22-year term in state prison and earned release throught a commutation from Gov. Jerry Brown and approval from the state’s parole board, firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of us is a survivor of domestic violence, detained and deported by ICE after earning release from state prison.
The other is a member of the California Assembly, who has written legislation to make sure this never happens again.
We have never met in person. But even across the U.S.-Mexico border, as two immigrant women, we are united in our commitment to ending the double-punishment of immigrants in California’s state prison system.
The California Legislature and Gov. Gavin Newsom have a powerful opportunity to right this wrong by passing the VISION Act, Assembly Bill 937.
We call upon our state’s leaders to champion this bill, which would ensure that people who serve their sentences, are ordered released, or who have their charges dropped aren’t transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention and instead can reunite with their families.
Gabby Solano’s story vividly illustrates what’s at stake for our families and communities. She writes this hundreds of miles from her loved ones, as she tries to make her way in a country she hadn’t set foot in since she was just 2 years old.
Gabby, who came to the U.S. as a permanent resident at age 2, unfortunately ended up in a physically and emotionally abusive relationship for eight years. One night, Gabby’s abusive boyfriend and an acquaintance of his got into a fight with another person and ended up killing that person. Gabby watched in horror and was threatened with violence if she said anything. But under a harsh law that has since been changed, Gabby was unjustly convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.
In prison, she became a substance abuse counselor and took more than 1,000 hours of rehabilitation classes. She earned two degrees, won a commutation from former Gov. Jerry Brown in 2018, and was found eligible for release by the state’s parole board, which sadly only approves 1 in 5 cases.
But none of this mattered to California’s prison system – or to ICE.
While friends were waiting outside the prison gates to finally welcome Gabby home, the state of California voluntarily and unnecessarily transferred her to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. After three grueling months in a detention center, ICE deported Gabby to Mexico.
We hope Newsom will issue a pardon so that Gabby can reunite with her family in Southern California.
Yet if the VISION Act were already law, the suffering of families whose loved ones were transferred to ICE could have been averted.
And according to a new poll by UC San Diego’s US Immigration Policy Center, a majority of California voters agree. Two thirds of California voters support the VISION Act. What’s more, 8 in 10 California voters agree or strongly agree that regardless of what country a person was born in, they should be released from prison or jail after completing their sentences.
If the VISION Act becomes law, it will also strike a blow against the racial inequality that is deeply embedded in all of our systems of incarceration, as Black and Brown immigrants are more likely to be arrested, targeted, jailed – and deported. One upsetting statistic that cries out for action: Black immigrants make up 7% of non-citizens in the US, but 20% of people facing deportation for criminal convictions.
Let us be clear: we reject a justice system that treats people differently based on the color of their skin and where they were born. California should unequivocally reject the Trump-style demonization of immigrants.
Illinois, Oregon and Washington, D.C., have already enacted laws that end the prison/jail to ICE pipeline. We are hopeful that Newsom and the state Legislature will make this inclusive and just vision a reality for our state.