Q&A: Rosa Lopez discusses the TRUTH Act community forum

August 18, 2023 /

On August 22 at 9 a.m., the Board of Supervisors will be conducting the annual TRUTH Act community forum to provide information to the public about ICE’s access to individuals and to receive and consider public comment.

The TRUTH Act provides a public forum where the public can share testimonies and hear from their local law enforcement about any interactions, communications, or collaborations with ICE. During this forum, local law enforcement is also required to share data about who ICE is after, how many people have been transferred over to ICE and to learn more about the policies involving transfers.

Ahead of this meeting, Kern Sol News spoke with Rosa Lopez, a Senior Policy Advocate and Organizer from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), about the importance of this forum and what the public can look forward to learning from it. 

  1. What is the TRUTH Act Community forum and what led to its implementation?
    • “The TRUTH Act is a law that passed that was part of a series of laws that were passed to provide protection for immigrant communities who interact with law enforcement. First, it was the Trust Act, then the TRUTH Act, and then the California Values Act. All three of these laws were passed with the intent to strengthen protections for immigrants. But the TRUTH Act specifically is a public forum where local representatives — the Board of Supervisors — have to hold a public forum with any local law enforcement agencies that may have communication with ICE. That agency has to provide information to the public about any communication they’ve had or any requests they’ve received from ICE.”
  2. Can you explain the necessity behind laws being passed that would protect people from collusion between ICE agencies and local and state law enforcement?
    • “During the Trump administration, ICE enforcement skyrocketed. People were on their way to work, on their way to drop their kids off at school and they were being targeted. All these laws were necessary during this time due to ICE enforcement and activities and that led to a lot more local law enforcement to feel more comfortable communicating with ICE. Prior to these laws, anyone they deemed to not have legal status that was communicated to ICE.”
  3. What loopholes have been found by law enforcement to circumvent these laws?
    • “These laws don’t necessarily prevent all communication, and prior to these laws some agencies even allowed ICE to have an office within their office. But after these laws, especially the Values Act, it prevented resources from being allocated to ICE, but it didn’t prevent communication. So there are specific crimes that are eligible for ICE transfers. So if ICE knows a person with a qualifying conviction is being held, they can request that person be transferred. The only way ICE knows, if someone is in local law enforcement custody, is if local law enforcement posts that on a public site. Kern was already doing this — posting who was in jail or who was being processed, but a lot of agencies that were not previously posting this information began doing so to legally provide that information to ICE.”
  4. What kind of measures can incarcerated people take, while incarcerated, to avoid getting interviewed by ICE?
    • “If they fall into contact with the law enforcement offices, law enforcement should not be asking for their legal status. The person should not carry around or show any foreign documents or disclose personal information that brings their status into question. If they are picked up by law enforcement, the law enforcement is supposed to provide them with a written form that explains their rights if ICE tries to access them — that is part of the Trust Act, to be informed if there’s a request for them to be interviewed by ICE. That form needs to be written in a language that they can understand so that they can opt to decline; if for some reason they accept that interview request, ICE will have access to them.”
  5. How ideal is this meeting for the community?
    • “This meeting is very important because this is an opportunity to hear from the Sherrif about continued communication and collaboration with ICE agencies here. The Sherrif is supposed to be providing annual data. So this is an opportunity for the community to hear about any continued collaboration and provide testimony as to if they’re [the Sheriff’s office] reporting the truth or they’re disguising the numbers. Since this meeting takes place before the Board of Supervisors, and the Board of Supervisors are the one who allocates funding for the sheriffs, the Board of Supervisors have the power to say that any funding sent to them can’t be used to collaborate with ICE. So this is an opportunity for the community to show up with power since this hasn’t been a priority since the pandemic. I think there’s a real fear that Kern County has three immigration detention centers and two of them are operating so anytime those detention centers can begin to repopulate.”
  6. What can the Board of Supervisors do better to improve how these meetings function?
    • “The Board of Supervisors should be holding a meeting that is accessible to the public, especially the communities that are most affected like the immigrant community and the farmworker community. It would be ideal for the Board of Supervisors to recognize that most of them aren’t available in the mornings and may not have transportation to go to the Board of Supervisors chambers.”

At the end of the interview, Lopez wanted to remind people of the importance of this forum and the importance of showing up. She also added that if they’re not able to attend in person, any comments or testimonies can be emailed to the Board of Supervisors so that their voices and stories can still be heard.

Victoria Rodgers

Victoria Rodgers is an editor and reporter for Kern Sol News. Born in Bakersfield, CA, she received her Bachelor of Arts in English from Rockford University in Illinois. She can be reached at victoria@southkernsol.org.