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Advocates Say Secure Communities Negatively Effects Community Safety in Austin, TX
Austin, TX – Austin-based organizations today expressed concern about Secure Communities, a federal program currently in use in the Travis County Jail which has been criticized as a form of racial profiling that undermines the needed trust between the public and local law enforcement. The groups, Grassroots Leadership, the Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition, and the ACLU of Texas, pointed to a new website, www.UncovertheTruth.org, a recently filed lawsuit for records related to this little-known U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) program, and a national campaign aimed to uncover the truth behind law enforcement and ICE collaboration. Austin was one of the first cities to implement Secure Communities. Today District of Columbia Councilmembers unanimously introduced a bill that will prohibit the DC Metropolitan Police from sharing arrest and booking information with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Secure Communities is ICE’s newest initiative, a technologically intensive version of ICE-law enforcement programs which digitally fingerprints all arrestees and crosschecks this information with ICE and FBI databases. As of November 2009, Secure Communities is in place in 168 jurisdictions in 20 states. ICE further plans to have Secure Communities presence in every state by 2011, and plans to implement it in 3,100 state and local jails nation-wide by 2013.
The Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition, in partnership with the Community Engagement Center of UT Austin, is conducting a study on the effects of the program on immigrant communities and local policing practices. Patricia Zavala of the Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition said, “Our research shows that there is significant differences in how immigrants and law enforcement understand Secure Communities: immigrants and their allies see Secure Communities as a new form of racial profiling that is undermining community trust in the police. Police, in contrast, are largely unaware of the program, or believe that it expands law enforcement resources for fighting crime.”
Preliminary research also indicates that over 80% of immigrants surveyed believed that local police collaborate with ICE. The majority of those surveyed added that such collaboration is the primary reason why they would not call the police in the event that they were a victim or witness to a crime.
“By collaborating with ICE, there is a concern that community trust in the police force will break down,” said Andrea Guttin, Esq., whose report The Criminal Alien Program: Immigration Enforcement in Travis County, Texas documented the impact of CAP, an ICE-local law enforcement program similar to Secure Communities. “When local police or jails are perceived to be acting with immigration enforcement agents, immigrants hesitate to contact police due to fears of deportation. As increasing numbers of immigrants come in contact with ICE after minor brushes with police, this fear becomes more acute.”
“The community as a whole is less safe when there is a lack of cooperation with law enforcement,” said Matt Simpson, policy strategist for the ACLU of Texas. “Law enforcement should strive for increased trust from the public. All Secure Communities does is drive a wedge between two groups who should be working toward the same goal — a safe community.”
DC District Council Today Unanimously Introduces Legislation to limit Police-ICE partnerships. Chants of "No More Arizona's!!!"
CONTACT: Sarahi Uribe, NDLON, 202-285-9673 or [email protected] and Marco Loera, 602-373-3859
May 4, 2010, Washington, DC – Today Councilmembers Phil Mendelson, Jim Graham introduced the “Secure Communities Act of 2010” with the unanimous support of the Council. This is a ground breaking bill that will prohibit the DC Metropolitan Police from sharing arrest and booking information with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Last November, Chief Lanier signed a Memorandum of Agreement with ICE to implement the so-called “Secure Communities” program that forwards arrest and booking information of arrested individuals in the District regardless if they have not been found guilty of a crime or if their arrest is unlawful.
“Contrary to its name, the Secure Communities program makes the public less safe by creating fear and mistrust of the police and undermining community policing” said Councilmember Phil Mendelson (D-At-large), the bill’s primary author. “I’m proud that so many of my colleagues are joining me in introducing this bill to offer a strong counter-statement to the one recently made in Arizona.
Arizona—a known testing ground for “Secure Communities” and other police-ICE partnerships—demonstrates the dangerous and disastrous consequences of the federal governments’ devolution of their exclusive authority over immigration to local and state governments. Today the council chambers were filled with community, labor, and civil rights leaders as well as residents that supported the councilmember’s leadership in asserting the City’s and the nation’s values.
Sarahi Uribe, from the National Day Laborer Organizing Network said she was hopeful the law would be replicated elsewhere, adding: “The Secure Communities and 287g experiment gave rise to the disaster in Arizona, and it’s now time for it to end.”
Said Jaime Contreras, Area Director for SEIU 32BJ and Chair of the MD/DC SEIU State Council, “We will not stand by and watch as our community is targeted. This is Washington DC, the capital of freedom. We commend the Council for introducing this bill.”
Last week, advocates in Washington DC launched the “Uncover the Truth on Police and ICE Collaborations” (www.uncoverthetruth.org)—a national campaign in fourteen cities to demand an end to the dangerous and disastrous police-ICE programs such as “Secure Communities.” Today’s bill introduction and ongoing community organizing have inspired other advocates throughout the country to do the same.
“The Department of Homeland Security Secretary, Janet Napolitano, declared that she wants the Secure Communities program in every U.S. jail by 2013,” said Mackenzie Baris, Director of DC Jobs with Justice. “Today our city is saying that we plan to stop it right here in the nation’s Capitol.”
Well over 200 thousand marched in Downtown Los Angeles and peacefully demanded immigration reform in 2010 and to condemn criminalization and racial profiling by Arizona SB 1070. At the corner of Olympic and Broadway people began congregating as early as 6 am. It took people 4 hours to walk from the beginning point to the end of the march at Broadway and Temple. It was just a one massive sea of people and a powerful rally that ended at 2:00 pm.
On March 19, 2010 nearly 200 people packed the Metropolitan Police Oversight Hearing at the DC District Council with “Moratorium Now” stickers and signs that read “Stop the Failed Secure Communities” program. Their questions and testimonies uncovered the truth on a failed program that threatened to erode public trust, hurt community policing efforts, open the door for racial profiling, and overturn the city’s rich history and pro-immigrant policies. Through their strong organizing and advocacy they were able to delay the program’s implementation. This marked a partial victory in their campaign to completely reject the program in their city.
These efforts are the work of a broad coalition that includes labor, civil rights, community, immigrant, domestic violence and faith groups. Some participating groups: DC Jobs with Justice, The Latino Federation, Empower DC, Latino Action Coalition of DC, National Capitol ACLU, Different Avenues, Rights Working Group, DC Latino Caucus, The Latino Association of Mt Pleasant, Mil Mujeres Legal Services, Mary’s Center for Maternal and Child Care, CARECEN, DC Trans Coalition, Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition, National Immigration Project, National Day Laborer Organizing Network and over 100 community and civil rights organizations.
Friday’s hearing you can be watched here: http://oct.dc.gov/services/on_demand_video/channel13/March2010/03_19_10_JUDICI.asx
Fox news report. Begin watching at minute 1:35 to 2:24.
Photos from hearing (Photo credit: Pabitra Benjamin): http://www.flickr.com/photos/triberevolt
ICE Extends Reach
Re John Morton’s April 28 Other Views article, ICE focuses on nabbing criminals: Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has blasted Arizona’s anti-immigrant law, saying it diverts law-enforcement resources and undermines the mission of public safety.
It is ironic, then, that her assistant secretary, Morton, defends Secure Communities, an immigration-enforcement program with similar effects, which is metastasizing rapidly across the country.
By running the fingerprints of every arrestee against DHS databases, before any conviction, Secure Communities de facto turns any participating law-enforcement agency into an extended arm of ICE. In Miami-Dade County, 84 percent of those identified for deportation and 83 percent of those deported are not hardened criminals, but community members often charged with lower-level offenses.
Recently, three civil-rights groups filed a federal lawsuit requesting more information on Secure Communities. Morton should instruct his staff to expedite this request rather than writing misleading columns.
CARL BERGQUIST, policy advocate, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, Los Angeles