Press Release from Law Enforecement Engagement Initiative June 17, 2011:
New “Secure Communities” Changes Must Address Deep Flaws to Protect Public Safety, Community Policing
SACRAMENTO, CA – Today, the Immigration Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) announced initial changes to its controversial under fire jail fingerprinting program known as “Secure Communities” or S-COMM. It also announced the creation of an advisory committee to review the program and propose additional changes.
Although the program was originally designed to identify and deport undocumented immigrants who commit serious crimes, ICE’s own numbers show that 60% of those being deported through S-COMM have not been convicted of any crime, or been charged with low-level offenses like traffic violations. These statistics have raised serious concerns across the country about the impact this program is having on the relationship between police and immigrants. When immigrants become fearful that contact with local police could lead to deportation, it’s a fact that they stop reporting crimes.
While S-COMM is slated to be in place in every jail and correctional facility across the country by 2013, many communities have begun to remove themselves from the program out of concern for its impact on public safety. In recent weeks, governors from Illinois, New York and Massachusetts have requested removal or suspension from the controversial program and California has legislation in progress to make major modifications to their S-COMM agreement with ICE. Other jurisdictions, including Washington, D.C., have also requested removal from the program.
Retired Chief Arturo Venegas, Project Director of LEEI, provides the following statement on today’s announcement:
“In this announcement today, ICE is acknowledging that there are serious flaws in the Secure Communities program. In addition to implementing modest changes, the agency is establishing an advisory committee to review and propose more fundamental reforms.
“We’ve been down this road before. After federal auditors and inspectors found similar problems with the 287(g) program, the government failed to implement needed reforms. This time, the government has to make good on its promise and reform this program fundamentally.
“This is serious business for community policing and local law enforcement. We simply cannot police and protect a community that won’t talk to us. 287(g) and Secure Communities have harmed our relationship with the immigrant community, and the damage needs to be undone.
“In my view, the only way this program can be improved and the relationship between police and the community saved is by limiting Secure Communities to individuals who have been convicted of serious crimes. DHS must also clarify to state and local police that they do not have the ‘inherent authority’ to enforce civil immigration laws.
“Law enforcement does not like to criticize the federal government or programs that are supposed to ensure public safety. We are speaking up now because this program, like 287(g), has failed, and it needs to be reformed.”
Chief Victor Rodriguez, McAllen Police Department, provided the following statement:
“Whereas the issue of Secure Communities relates to illegal immigration across the United States, if abused, this program may subject residents of largely Hispanic cities to more government inquiries simply because of the Hispanic composition of that city. It is for that reason that I support the creation of an advisory committee to study current and future application of this program.”
For the perspective of other law enforcement leaders, please see http://www.leei.us/main/media/SCommPoliceQuotes.pdf
And this from the Center for Constitutional Rights…
Rights Groups Say Proposed Tweaks to Secure Communities Program Are Too Little Too Late
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 17, 2011, Washington, D.C. – The Center for Constitutional Rights, Detention Watch Network (DWN), Rights Working Group (RWG), and the National Immigration Project reject Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) announcement today of minor changes to Secure Communities Secure Communities, a federal immigration enforcement program that has come under fire by communities nationwide that say it undermines public safety, invites racial profiling and fails in meeting ICE’s own objectives by funneling non-citizens into what groups say is a dangerous detention and deportation system. Just this month, states like New York, Massachusetts and Illinois and other localities announced their refusal to participate in the controversial program.
The coalition says it is encouraged that ICE appears to be responding to the broad public outcry against Secure Communities, but say ICE’s appointment of a commission to inquire into abuses will do nothing to address the program’s underlying dysfunction; rather, groups say these cosmetic changes only mask the dangers of rolling out a program unfettered by meaningful oversight and accountability.
“These changes are nowhere near sufficient to address the well-documented problems with the Secure Communities program that has, thus far, torn apart countless families across the country by funneling people into a detention and deportation system rife with abuse,” said Andrea Black, Executive Director of Detention Watch Network. “The flaws with Secure Communities run so deep that the only solution is termination of the program.”
“The Obama administration is ignoring the voices of elected leaders and officials in their effort to ram this federal program down the throats of our communities and governments,” says Paromita Shah, Associate Director of the National Immigration Project.
Ongoing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) litigation by the Center for Constitutional Rights, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, the Immigration Justice Clinic of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law has uncovered a vast, sophisticated biometrics system that is largely unregulated, and, some experts say, the program infringes on the constitutionally-protected privacy rights of U.S. citizens.
“ICE is simply putting lipstick on a pig. The civil rights and privacy issues triggered by the implementation of Secure Communities are just the tip of the iceberg,” said Sunita Patel, a Center for Constitutional Rights staff attorney. “Our litigation has revealed the possibility of a much larger Big Brother scheme taking root – every community in the country may soon be fighting violations of our due process rights.”
“This Administration can no longer continue standing by Secure Communities,” said Margaret Huang, Executive Director of Rights Working Group. “By continuing to support the program it is sanctioning racial profiling, eroding the trust local law enforcement agencies have built with communities of color and signaling to the international community that our immigration system does not respect the basic human rights of all persons in our country.”
Among the coalition’s demands, it is calling on the Obama administration to:
• Publicly oppose and terminate all programs that create partnerships between state and local law enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security;
• Halt the development of the vast biometric infrastructure that houses Secure Communities and inform the public of the current scope and purpose of its data collection and dissemination activities; and
• Allow state and local jurisdictions to opt-out of Secure Communities.
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change. Visit www.CCRjustice.org and follow @theCCR.
The Detention Watch Network is a national coalition of organizations and individuals working to educate the public and policy makers about the U.S. immigration detention and deportation system and advocate for humane reform so that all who come to our shores receive fair and humane treatment. For more information visit www.detentionwatchnetwork.org
The National Immigration Project is a national non-profit that provides legal assistance and technical support to immigrant communities, legal practitioners, and advocates working to advance the rights of noncitizens. We seek to promote justice and equality of treatment in all areas of immigration law, the criminal justice system, and social policies related to immigration. For nearly forty years, the National Immigration Project has served as a progressive source of advocacy-oriented legal support on issues critical to immigrant rights. www.nationalimmigrationproject.org
Formed in the aftermath of September 11th, Rights Working Group is a national coalition of nearly 300 organizations from across the country representing civil liberties, national security, immigrant rights and human rights advocates. RWG seeks to restore due process and human rights protections that have eroded since 9/11, ensuring that the rights of all people in the U.S. are respected regardless of citizenship or immigration status, race, national origin, religion or ethnicity. For more information visit www.rightsworkinggroup.org.
And from America’sVoice:
ICE Recognizes Secure Communities is Flawed
Fundamental Reforms Needed to Align Program with Law Enforcement Priorities, Protect Public Safety
Washington, DC – Today, Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced that it is establishing an advisory board to review the Secure Communities deportation program, and implementing new guidance throughout the field on prosecutorial discretion.
ICE Director John Morton has repeatedly said that he believes federal immigration enforcement should focus on the ‘worst of the worst,’ yet the policies and practices of his agency have repeatedly failed to meet that standard. The program known as Secure Communities, which involves state and local police in identifying immigrants for deportation, provides one of the starkest examples. Secure Communities was supposed to focus on dangerous convicted criminals, but has actually swept up thousands of non-criminal immigrants and hurt the relationship between local police and the immigrant community.
According to Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice Education Fund: “Today’s announcement shows that concerns about the program’s failures have finally penetrated the DHS bureaucracy in Washington. When law enforcement leaders and advocates for crime victims are speaking out against a ‘law enforcement’ proposal, something is wrong.”
For years, law enforcement leaders have warned of the dangers of turning police into deportation agents, because they want everyone in the community to feel safe reporting crimes. Yet according to government data obtained by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, approximately 60% of the people deported under Secure Communities had either been charged with low-level offenses, such as traffic violations, or no crime at all. Victims of domestic violence have already been caught up in the Secure Communities dragnet; an unknown number of immigrants have declined to come forward and report crimes for fear of deportation. When they stay silent, law enforcement and public safety suffer.
As New York Governor Cuomo wrote when announcing his intention of removing New York from the program: “The heart of concern is that the program, conceived of as a method of targeting those who pose the greatest threat to our communities, is in fact having the opposite effect and compromising public safety by deterring witnesses to crime and others from working with law enforcement.” Illinois Governor Quinn and Massachusetts Governor Patrick voiced the same concerns and are attempting to cancel their states’ participation in the program. Numerous law enforcement leaders from New York and elsewhere are speaking up, as are Members of Congress.
Tramonte continued: “Cosmetic changes will not be not enough. This program needs sweeping structural reform if it is to meet its stated goal of truly targeting the ‘worst of the worst,’ and reverse the damage done to community policing. It should only apply to people who are convicted of serious crimes, not those who have been simply charged with low-level offenses, traffic offenses, or no crime at all. Police need to focus on getting dangerous criminals off the streets, not rounding up immigrant workers.”
For a timeline on developments in the debate over Secure Communities, go here.
For quotes from law enforcement leaders raising concerns about Secure Communities, go here.
America’s Voice Education Fund — Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform.
MY COMMENT: Eeven though some folks may be here illegally…that is a misdemeanor. That does not mean they should be deported if they are a victim of a crime as has happened.
I am all in favor of deporting felons which was the supposed intent of Secure Communities.
But a whole lot of people got swept up so the feds could pad their statistics showing how tough they were on llegal immigrants.
And having been a prosceutor in a border city….it really works against public safety to have people afraid to talk to the local police and to report crimes.