Archive | Press Coverage
Immigrant advocates protest fingerprint-sharing program they say will increase deportations with a “Jericho Walk” by religious leaders and community activists. Stuart Sydenstricker sounds a Caracol, a shell that is a symbol of justice in Latin America, before the group circled the Radino Federal building 7 times and said a prayer each time. (JENNIFER BROWN /The Star-Ledger)
“Secure Communities” or a National Albatross?
BY RON HAMPTON
Shortly before the Department of Homeland Security is expected to announce another round of changes to its much-maligned “Secure Communities” deportation program, it’s worth asking: “Can this program really be fixed?”
Since my original writing about Secure Communities two years ago, the program has only become more controversial. Three states and numerous cities have come forward to demand an “opt out” that would allow them to not participate in the initiative.
As law enforcement officials, I and others have expressed reservations about “Secure Communities” from the beginning. The program, which requires police to check the immigration status of anyone booked into custody, pulls state and local police into the task of immigration enforcement to an unprecedented degree. The effect is the “Arizonification” of the country.
As a former officer of the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police force, I know that when immigrants perceive local police as immigration officers, public safety suffers. Immigrant witnesses and crime victims become reluctant to report crime, so perpetrators remain free to prey on others. Community policing, a successful crime-fighting strategy based on constructing collaborative relationships of trust between police and the communities they serve, becomes near impossible. And resources that should go toward fighting crime are diverted to facilitating the deportation of mothers, fathers, children, and friends, whose only offense is to have violated one of the outdated and unjust provisions of our civil immigration law.
This public safety effect was confirmed recently by a Department of Justice investigation of civil rights abuses in Maricopa County, Arizona (known throughout the country for the racial profiling and abusive, anti-immigrant tactics of its Sheriff Joe Arpaio). Following a three-year investigation the Department found that: “[The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office’s] prioritization of immigration enforcement may have compromised its ability to secure the safety and security of Maricopa County residents. Since MCSO shifted its focus toward combating illegal immigration, violent crime rates in the county have increased significantly as compared to similarly situated jurisdictions.”
It’s no coincidence that all of the harsh, Arizona-style anti-immigrant laws require local police to engage in immigration enforcement. Making local police a gateway to deportation creates division, promotes fear, encourages racial profiling, and helps to separate hundreds of thousands of families. But it makes no sense for the federal government to “Arizonify” the rest of the country with “Secure Communities” when it’s clear that the entanglement of police and immigration functions harms us all.
Concerns for public safety and the allocation of scarce resources are what led the Governors of Illinois, New York, and Massachusetts to ask to terminate, suspend, or not activate “Secure Communities” in their states. They are what led the D.C. City Council to unanimously introduce a law against the program, the first of many similar local ordinances and resolutions around the country. And they are what lead me to believe that Secure Communities can’t be fixed—it has to be ended.
If prior DHS “reforms” are any indication, the forthcoming announcement of changes to Secure Communities will be more a public relations show than a move toward real change. Remember 287(g), another federal program designed to harness the power of local police for immigration enforcement, perhaps best known for the abuses of Sheriff Arpaio in Arizona? In the face of scathing criticism, DHS “reformed” the program, issuing new guidance, creating a “refresher” training course, and setting up new “advisory committees.” But these changes served more to take the pressure off DHS than to produce any real changes on the ground.
As long as Secure Communities continues to force police to act as a pipeline for deportation, we will continue to move toward a vision of the country in which we all look more and more like Arizona. If you find that prospect troubling, it’s time to join in the call to end, not mend Secure Communities.
RON HAMPTON is a former community officer with the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department and Executive Director of Blacks in Law Enforcement of America.
Report describes ‘confusion’ over immigration program
Investigators find no evidence that federal officials deliberately provided misleading information about the Secure Communities program. Critics say concerns about privacy and racial profiling haven’t been addressed.
April 06, 2012|By Brian Bennett, Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON — Investigators found no evidence that Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials intentionally misled Congress or state and local officials about the controversial program that gives federal immigration authorities access to fingerprints of prisoners in local jails, according to two reports released Friday.
The program, called Secure Communities, began with considerable fanfare in 2008 as a way to find violent criminals who should be deported. Local and state agencies signed agreements with ICE to participate in the program. When deportations soared as a result of ICE finding minor violations, some agencies sought to back out of the agreements, but were told by ICE that they could not.
A report by the acting inspector general at the Department of Homeland Security, Charles K. Edwards, said initial “confusion” inside ICE about whether local approval was needed to join the federal effort resulted in a “lack of clarity” in explaining it to state and local officials.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose), who requested the reports, said she was “frankly disappointed” that the reports failed to answer her questions about whether the program encouraged racial profiling or discouraged immigrants from reporting crimes to police.
“The inspector general does not seem to be taking seriously concerns and misrepresentations already established,” said Chris Newman, legal director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit.
Edwards’ report acknowledged that confusion inside ICE about the fingerprint-sharing program had stoked “opposition, criticism and resistance in some locations.”
Secure Communities drew scrutiny after governors in California, Illinois, Massachusetts and several other states complained it had ensnared thousands of minor offenders, including some who had been arrested but not yet tried or convicted, and had deterred some crime victims from coming forward to aid police.
But these issues were not specifically addressed in the two reports.
One of the reports said the program, which began under theGeorge W. Bushadministration in the fall of 2008, had properly identified illegal immigrants with criminal records for deportation. But the numbers grew in the first three years as authorities began to consider 13 “low-priority” crimes, including violating court orders, harboring fugitives and disorderly conduct.
The expanded list of crimes that could trigger a deportation helps explain why the Obama administration is deporting more people with criminal records than ever before. Nearly 217,000 people convicted of felonies or misdemeanors were deported last year, an 89% increase since 2008, according to ICE.
About 2,590 state and local law enforcement agencies, or 81% of jurisdictions, share fingerprints with immigration officials. ICE officials say they plan to link every jurisdiction in the country to its database by the end of 2013.
Critics called for ending the program immediately, however, saying it allowed widespread civil rights abuses.
“The reports ignore the reality that this misguided program has led to unwarranted detention, arrests and deportations of victims, witnesses and other innocent people, including U.S. citizens,” said Kate Desormeau, an attorney with the Immigrants’ Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union.
Divulga EU reportes sobre controvertido programa de inmigración
WASHINGTON, D.F.- Denuncian el proyecto busca deportar a extranjeros con antecedentes penales.
WASHINGTON, D.F.- La Oficina del Inspector General del Departamento de Seguridad Interna de Estados Unidos divulgó hoy dos reportes sobre un controvertido programa de inmigración que busca deportar a extranjeros con antecedentes penales.
De acuerdo con Notimex, en el primer reporte se habló sobre si el Servicio de Inmigración y Aduanas (ICE) comunicó de manera clara a las entidades locales y estatales el objetivo del programa Comunidades Seguras.
De acuerdo con el informe, no hay evidencia de que el ICE haya engañado intencionalmente al público y a las autoridades locales o estatales sobre el programa Comunidades Seguras.
Sin embargo, admitió que el Servicio de Inmigración no comunicó adecuadamente a las partes interesadas la intención del programa.
La Oficina del Inspector General emitió una serie de recomendaciones al ICE -que aceptó su implementación-, como la divulgación de guías y criterios sobre la intención del programa.
El segundo informe aborda la efectividad del programa, enfocado en la identificación adecuada de inmigrantes en las cárceles para su deportación.
Tras darse a conocer los reportes, el director del Foro Nacional de Inmigración, Ali Noorani, sostuvo que éstos “confirman la sospecha sobre una pobre comunicación y débil transparencia”.
Señaló que las preocupaciones principales del programa no se respondieron ni resolvieron, como la erosión de la confianza pública en la policía y la falta de garantías internas para evitar la discriminación.
Además, el gobierno impone Comunidades Seguras a las entidades estatales y locales que se oponen al programa, sin importar sus motivos, dijo Noorani.
La activista Sarahí Uribe, de la Red Nacional de Jornaleros (NDLON), dijo que los reportes inadvertidamente admiten que el ICE ha extralimitado el programa y ahora considera los delitos menores como su nueva prioridad.
Sunita Patel, del Centro para los Derechos Constitucionales (CCR), indicó que “la única solución adecuada es terminar Comunidades Seguras y cambiar las prioridades para reparar el daño causado”.
De la misma manera, Sonia Lin, de la Clínica de Justicia en Inmigración de la Facultad de Leyes Benjamin N. Cardozo, en Nueva York, afirmó que “es indignante” el hecho de que el gobierno espere que público acepte los reportes como si fueran reformas.
La directora de la Coalición por los Derechos Humanos de los Inmigrantes en Los Ángeles (CHIRLA), Angélica Salas, dijo que Comunidades Seguras convierte a la policía en agentes de inmigración y fomenta la discriminación racial.
La Oficina del Inspector General del Departamento de Seguridad Interna “ha colocado debajo de la alfombra” el hecho de que Comunidades Seguras explota la discriminación racial para que el ICE alcance su meta de 400 mil deportaciones anuales, lamentó.
Mixed Reviews on Program for Immigrants With Records
By JULIA PRESTON
Published: April 6, 2012
Senior Obama administration officials created major confusion for state and local authorities by providing inconsistent information about a high-profile federal program to identify illegal immigrants who committed crimes, according to a stinging report published Friday by the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security.
The mixed messages about the expansion of the program, known as Secure Communities, from officials at Immigration and Customs Enforcement led directly to “opposition, criticism and resistance in some locations,” the inspector general, Charles K. Edwards, found.
But in a second report released on Friday, the inspector general’s office found that despite the rocky start and continuing political disputes, Secure Communities has been effective at rapidly identifying more immigrants who committed serious crimes — and in many more places — than efforts in the past, and at a very low cost to states. The program is a centerpiece of the Obama administration’s immigration enforcement policy, intended to increase the number of convicted criminals among about 400,000 immigrants deported each year.
The second report found that enforcement officers had a good understanding of priorities set by Immigration and Customs Enforcement for detaining and deporting immigrants identified under the program, making decisions in line with its priorities in 97 percent of 723 cases that auditors reviewed.
The back-to-back reports brought both an embarrassing critique of the performance of officials at the immigration agency, known as ICE, as they extended the program across the country, but also an endorsement by the inspector general’s office of its effectiveness in some aspects. Officials have said they plan to spread Secure Communities nationwide by next year.
Amid conflicting statements from ICE officials about whether the program was mandatory, governors of several states — including Illinois, Massachusetts and New York — have sought to withdraw from Secure Communities. The program has drawn an outcry from many immigrant organizations, which contend that it has led to the separation of families and the deportation of many immigrants here illegally who did not actually have criminal records.
Under Secure Communities, fingerprints of anyone arrested by the police are checked against both F.B.I. criminal databases, a routine procedure, and also against databases of the Department of Homeland Security, which hold records of all foreign-born people in the immigration system. As of last December, the program was operating in 44 states, covering 64 percent of local law enforcement jurisdictions.
Under ICE’s priorities, agents are instructed to accelerate deportations of serious offenders, but exercise prosecutorial discretion to suspend deportations of illegal immigrants who do not have criminal convictions.
The inspector general “did not find evidence that ICE intentionally misled” local officials or the public about Secure Communities.
But the report includes a chronological roster of misstatements and conflicting documents issued by ICE officials — including the director, John Morton — about whether states could opt out of the program. While ICE indicated during 2009 and 2010 that the program was voluntary, officials eventually settled on the position that states could not withdraw.
The report finds that the officials failed to set clear policies internally and “missed opportunities” to clarify the situation.
In a statement Friday, Nicole Navas, a spokeswoman for ICE, said that the agency had taken “aggressive steps” in the past year to provide clearer guidance about the program.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has acknowledged that her department fumbled communications about Secure Communities. Homeland Security officials said Friday that they were in the final stages of preparing new guidelines to govern the program, as the inspector general urged.
Representative Zoe Lofgren of California, the ranking Democrat on the House immigration subcommittee, wrote a letter last year that prompted the inspector general’s review. She said Friday that she was “frankly disappointed” with the reports, saying they failed to answer several of her questions: “Does the program also ensnare victims and others with no criminal history? Is it susceptible to racial profiling?”
Immigrant advocates said the inspector general reports showed that the Secure Communities program should be canceled.
“In an attempt to justify the program, the reports inadvertently admit that ICE has mutated S-Comm into an overreaching dragnet,” said Sarahi Uribe, of the National Day Laborers Organizing Network, one of the most staunch opponents of the program.