Secure Communities under scrutiny
Immigration rights advocate Jonathan Fried — executive director of We Count from Homestead, Fla. — spoke during a press conference Tuesday about recently released documents about Secure Communities, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) fingerprint-sharing immigration enforcement program.
ICE data shows that in Miami-Dade and Hillsborough counties 66 percent of Secure Communities deportations are of non-criminals. In St. Lucie County that number goes up to 79 percent. All 67 Florida counties became party to Secure Communities as of June 2010.
The National Day Laborers Organizers Network (NDLON), the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the Immigration Justice Clinic of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law obtained ICE data after they filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act earlier this year. When the FOIA was filed, S.C. was being used in 116 jurisdictions in 16 states; today, 494 jurisdictions in 27 sates are implementing S.C.
“What our communities see are loved ones being deported after a traffic violation,” explained Fried. “We have the case of a mother of two U.S.-born children who was deported because of S.C. She was not a dangerous criminal.
Fried explained that
the human impact of the Secure Communities goes beyond separation of families; it has increased community distrust in local law enforcement.
In Miami Secure Communities was never discussed by local authorities, it was implemented in an antidemocratic way. What we see is separation of families, years of community policing wasted, a poisoning of police-community relations, presumption of innocence has been thrown out, and it also has negative fiscal implications.”
According to Sunita Patel, a staff lawyer with the CCR, “after scrutiny to 287(g) ICE shifted to Secure Communities.”
Bridget Kessler of the Immigration Justice Clinic said “ICE released only a small portion of the request.” She indicated that ICE misrepresented the program, highlighting the detention of more dangerous criminals.
“But 28 targeted for deportation by ICE are non-criminals and 79 percent of the deported are low-level 2 and 3 crimes.”
Sheriff Mike Hennessey of the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department addressed the difficulty in opting out of Secure Communities:
I have been sheriff for 30 years and worked with INS, now ICE, to remove about 100 people a month with felony charges. We wanted to opt out of Secure Communities. We were told by ICE to do so through the state Attorney General. They told us we had to opt out through ICE.
ICE told us San Francisco could not opt out and Secure Communities is in place since June 2010.
There is a great concern of linking law enforcement with ICE because victims and witnesses will not report crime. It has a chilling effect between law enforcement and the immigrant community.
I know non-criminals are being swept up and presumably deported, San Francisco authorities do not want this.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., the chairperson of the Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law, wrote to Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder:
I am aware that some local law enforcement agencies have expressed concern that participating in Secure Communities will present a barrier to their community policing efforts. There appears to be confusion about how local law enforcement agencies may opt out. Staff from the Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law were informed that localities could opt out by making such a request to ICE. Subsequent conversations with ICE and FBI have added to the confusion by adding that this might not be so.
When asked what immigrant advocates say about people who are here illegally and would be deported under the Immigration and Naturalization Act, Kessler responded, “Law enforcement has to keep communities safe and ICE has to enforce federal immigration law. When those two mix we all become less safe.”