Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano (Pic by The National Guard, via Flickr)

Former members of a task force on Secure Communites sent a letter this week to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano calling on her to suspend the immigration enforcement program.

The letter also expressed their concern that an Arizona law enforcement agency that has committed a “wide range of civil rights violations” still has access to Secure Communities.

Brittney Nystrom of the National Immigration Forum and Andrea Zuniga DiBitetto of the AFL-CIO write in the letter:

As former members of the Homeland Security Advisory Council, Task Force on Secure Communities, we note with concern the multiple findings of racial profiling of Latinos and other civil rights violations by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office released by the Department of Justice (DOJ) on December 15.

The findings of a pattern and practice of racial profiling of Latinos in Maricopa County, Arizona, demonstrate that abuse can occur while the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is actively collaborating with enforcement agencies through both the 287(g) program and the Secure Communities program and through informal collaboration between DHS and law enforcement agencies.

“My understanding is that [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] is continuing to operate Secure Communities in Maricopa County despite the findings of discriminatory policing by that sheriffs department,” Nystrom tells The Florida Independent.

Secure Communities allows local law enforcement agencies to check the fingerprints of people they detain and match them up with federal immigration and criminal databases, with the stated goal of deporting undocumented immigrant criminals. All 67 Florida jurisdictions participate in Secure Communities.

Napolitano said in October that the termination of Secure Communities “would only weaken public safety, and move the immigration enforcement system back towards the ad hoc approach where non-criminal aliens are more likely to be removed than criminals.”

Opponents of Secure Communities have repeatedly called on the Obama administration to end the fingerprint-sharing program because immigrants who have committed no crime are being detained and deported, leaving behind U.S.-born children and families that, in many cases, will struggle to make ends meet.

Nystrom says that Homeland Security officials said they were “limiting” the Maricopa sheriff’s office’s “access to Secure Communities, but that in [her] thinking and Andrea’s thinking doesn’t go far enough to prevent someone who was picked up in a biased manner from being put into the deportation machine.”

The letter adds that the Secure Communities termination should also include Alabama, “where immigration enforcement laws that have been challenged as unconstitutional by the Department of Justice are in effect.”

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