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Patrick says he won’t sign Secure Communities program
By Maria Sacchetti and Noah Bierman, Globe Staff
In a major turnaround on immigration enforcement, Governor Deval Patrick said today that he will refuse to sign the controversial federal Secure Communities program, which refers illegal immigrants arrested even for minor crimes to federal immigration officials for deportation.
The refusal sets up a showdown with the federal government over a key initiative on illegal immigration, and follows states such as Illinois and New York refusing to sign on to the program. In a letter dated Friday, Public Safety Secretary Mary E. Heffernan said the state was concerned that the program, which refers criminals based on fingerprints, is creating fear in the immigrant community and is netting more non-criminals, such as those caught driving without a license, than hard-core offenders.
“The Governor and I are dubious of the Commonwealth taking on the role of federal immigration enforcement,” Heffernan, wrote in the letter to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Homeland Security agency in charge of detaining and deporting illegal immigrants. “We are even more skeptical of the impact that Secure Communities could have on residents of the Commonwealth.”
She said the Patrick administration was concerned that Secure Communities wasn’t meeting its main goals — deporting hard-core criminals. She said that more than half of those deported under Boston’s program were non-criminals and only 1 in 4 were hard-core criminals, and accused ICE of sending mixed messages about the program.
It is unclear why it took the Patrick administration months to come to this conclusion, since the statistics were available in media reports since last year.
In December, the Patrick administration said it would sign up with the federal program, because it snagged violent criminals for deportation, something the administration still supports, and because the program would be mandatory nationwide by 2013. The Patrick administration noted Boston’s willing participation in the program. The city had piloted it for the federal government since 2006 and continued when it expanded in 2008.
But advocates for immigrants protested, saying that ICE’s own statistics showed that more than half of those detained by the program were non-criminals.
The protests prompted the Patrick administration to hold a series of public meetings this year to address concerns about the program, eliciting sharply different views.
Immigrant advocates said illegal immigrants would be afraid to call the police for help, while Tea Party activists urged the governor to sign on to Secure Communities to sweep criminals out of the country.
Advocates for immigrants today hailed the news that Patrick would not sign.
Centro Presente, a Somerville-based statewide advocacy group that was among the first to protest the program, urged Boston to drop out as well.
“We are obviously very pleased that Governor Patrick has decided to not enter Massachusetts into the Secure Communities Program. He campaigned as a friend of the immigrant community and with this act he has walked that talk,” said executive director Patricia Montes, adding, “We hope that Mayor Menino will reconsider Boston’s participation in this program in light of its poor performance as reflected in ICE’s own statistics.”
Christen Varley, president of the Greater Boston Tea Party, expressed outrage today at the Patrick administration’s refusal to sign up for the program, saying it puts all Massachusetts residents at risk, including illegal immigrants. She pointed out the case of an illegal Ecuadoran immigrant, who had been arrested and released before he allegedly went on to kill a Brockton woman, also here illegally, and her 2-year-old son in February.
She said her group would continue to lobby hard for the program.
“The reality is the people of America do want this because they are tired of paying the bill, they are tired of being victimized,” she said, adding, “We have concrete examples of where horrific crimes could have been prevented.”
The Secure Communities program is now in 42 states, according to ICE. Since it began in October 2008 through April 30, 2011, ICE has deported more than 77,000 criminals; less than half were convicted of aggravated felonies such as murder.
“Dear Acting Director Rapp:
I am writing at the request of Governor Deval Patrick to inform you of his decision and directive that Massachusetts not sign any memorandum of agreement to participate in the Secure Communities program.”
Gov. Deval Patrick refuses to sign immigration program
By Hillary Chabot
Monday, June 6, 2011
A backpedaling Gov. Deval Patrick refused to sign onto a national security program — already in place in Boston — that would target illegal immigrants who have already been arrested, citing concerns about its effectiveness and potential for racial profiling.
“The Governor and I are dubious of the Commonwealth taking on the federal role of immigration enforcement,” wrote Patrick’s Secretary of Public Safety Mary Beth Heffernan in a letter to Immigration Customs Enforcement officials. “We are even more skeptical of the potential impact that Secure Communities could have on the residents of the Commonwealth. Through the community meetings we have held around the Commonwealth, residents have expressed concerns about racial profiling as a result of the program.”
Patrick said he would sign onto the program last December when the White House indicated participation was mandatory — but Patrick’s administration suggested that required involvement is up in the air.
The letter, which Patrick’s administration sent Friday, also charges ICE officials with “sending conflicting messages” about the Secure Communities program. Patrick’s move comes as two other states pulled out of the program over the last few months.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said last week he was withdrawing from Secure Communities, saying it hasn’t deported felons. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn decided in early May to bow out of the program, saying many of the people deported hadn’t committed a serious crime.
Lawmakers in California are also pushing legislation that would withdraw the state from the program.
The Secure Communities Program requires participating law enforcement agencies to share data on criminal suspects with federal immigration authorities. The Boston Police Department have participated successfully since 2006, and it’s meant to identify and deport violent criminals.
How a Democracy Works
Published: June 3, 2011
President Obama, who has spent two and a half years not delivering on his promise to fix immigration, gave a speech in El Paso last month and cloaked his failure in tough statistics — this many new border agents, that much fencing, these thousands of deportations.
As for the other parts of reform — where millions of immigrants get right with the law and get on with becoming Americans, where workers are better protected — he threw up his hands. He said immigration advocates “wish I could just bypass Congress and change the law myself. But that’s not how a democracy works.”
O.K., so maybe it isn’t. But there is a lot President Obama can and should do, using the discretion and authority granted to the executive branch and its agencies to make the system work better:
Mr. Obama can bolster public safety by pulling the plug on Secure Communities, a program that sends fingerprints of everyone booked by state or local police to Department of Homeland Security databases to be checked for immigration violations. It was supposed to focus on dangerous felons, but the heavy majority of those it catches are noncriminals or minor offenders — more than 30 percent have no convictions for anything.
The president should listen to the many law enforcement professionals and local officials, like the governors of New York and Illinois, who want nothing to do with Secure Communities. They say it endangers the public by catching the wrong people and stifling community cooperation with law enforcement.
- The president can push much harder against the noxious anti-immigrant laws proliferating in the national free-for-all. The administration sued to stop Arizona’s radical scheme. But Utah, Alabama, Indiana and Georgia are trying to do the same thing.
- He can grant relief from deportation to young people who would have qualified for the Dream Act, a filibustered bill that grants legal status to the innocent undocumented who enter college or the military. He can do the same for workers who would qualify for the Power Act, a stalled bill that seeks to prevent employers from using the threat of deportation and immigration raids to retaliate against employees who press for their rights on the job.
- He can resist Republican lawmakers who want mandatory nationwide use of E-Verify, a flawed hiring database, which would likely lead to thousands of Americans losing their job because of data errors. A December report by the Government Accountability Office warned that E-Verify is plagued by inaccurate records and vulnerable to identity theft and employer fraud.
- He can order the citizenship agency to keep families intact by making it easier for illegal immigrants who are immediate relatives of American citizens to fix their status without having to leave the country. Many already qualify for green cards but are afraid to risk getting stuck abroad under too-strict laws that could bar their re-entry.
- He can bolster the civil rights division of the Department of Justice and give the Department of Labor more tools to strengthen protections for all workers and the authority to combat labor trafficking. Such authority now lies with Homeland Security, which means many immigrants are too frightened to speak up when their rights are abused.
As President Obama said in El Paso, the United States needs to address “the real human toll of a broken immigration system.” There’s work to do, Mr. President.
Former District Attorney Robert Morgenthau Applauds Governor Cuomo’s Suspension of the Flawed Secure Communities Program (PR)
Former District Attorney Robert Morgenthau Applauds Governor Cuomo’s Suspension of the Flawed Secure Communities Program
For immediate release: June 1, 2011
Contact: (212) 403-1223
I strongly support Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s courageous decision to suspend New York’s participation in Secure Communities pending a review of the program. I have long been concerned about the issues that arise when local police indiscriminately share information with federal immigration authorities. Specifically, cooperation with federal immigration officials creates a lack of trust in law enforcement among the public. This makes it hard for police and prosecutors to do their jobs because immigrants become reluctant to report crimes or cooperate with investigations. That is why, during the 35 years I was district attorney in Manhattan, my policy was to never share the names of individuals involved with the criminal justice system to immigration authorities until after they were convicted of a serious crime. Programs like Secure Communities, which require automatic immigration database checks for people arrested by local police upon booking, magnify the problems I tried so hard to avoid.
About a year ago, I drafted an editorial in the Wall Street Journal calling for a more nuanced approach to the cooperation between local authorities and federal immigration officials. I am now encouraged that the Governor and other elected officials around the country share my concerns and are taking a critical look at overbroad state and local immigration enforcement cooperation programs like Secure Communities.
New York state law enforcement officials have no obligation to spend time and resources, and endanger their critical mission of keeping our communities safe, to enforce federal immigration law. The Governor’s decision to suspend New York’s participation in the Secure Communities program is an important step toward separating the roles of local police and federal immigration authorities in the eyes of the public, and also protecting New Yorkers from suffering often cruel and unfair treatment in the federal immigration system.