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Report: Non-criminals, minor violators make up the majority of those deported via Secure Communities (FL Independent)

Apr 12th, 2011No Comments

Report: Non-criminals, minor violators make up the majority of those deported via Secure Communities

By Marcos Restrepo

Immigration and Customs Enforcement data received through a Freedom of Information Act request shows that Secure Communities, a federal immigration enforcement program, detains and deports people who are not criminals.

In a press release issued last week, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network indicates that:

“Nationally, 1 in 4 people deported under S-Comm haven’t been convicted of any crime. That ratio jumps to over 50% in Palm Beach, in Miami, and in multiple examples across the country[,]” [e]xplained Bridget Kessler of Benjamin Cardozo School of Law.  “Those numbers raise questions about how S-Comm may allow local police to cover up profiling and circumvent due process.”

When questioned during a recent House Appropriations Committee Hearing on March 11th, Director of ICE John Morton admitted,, “we do in fact remove non-criminals through Secure Communities.”

According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (aka ICE), Secure Communities allows local law enforcement agencies to compare the fingerprints of every person arrested and booked with FBI criminal history records and Department of Homeland Security immigration records.

In Florida, workers, immigrant advocates, religious leaders and business groups have focused their opposition on two immigration enforcement bills: state Rep. William Snyder’s H.B. 7089 and Sen. Anitere Flores’ S.B. 2040. Both have provisions that would make programs such as Secure Communities a permanent part of law enforcement in Florida.

Secure Communities uses a three-level system to determine the type of crime a detainee has committed. Level 1 refers to offenders convicted of aggravated felonies, Level 2 includes those convicted of felonies or three or more misdemeanors and Level 3 indicates misdemeanor convictions.

The National Day Laborer Organizing Network press release explains that ICE “began issuing quarterly reports as a result of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Kathryn O. Greenberg Immigration Justice Clinic of the Benjamin Cardozo School of Law.”

This new analysis of ICE data shows that five Florida jurisdictions where Secure Communities is being implemented are among the top 20  jurisdictions with the highest numbers of deportations of non-criminals.

The data also show that under Secure Communities in Florida, from October 2008 through February 2011, over 14,100 people were arrested or booked into ICE custody. Of that total, more than 4,600 were Level 1 or dangerous criminals, more than 1,800 were Level 2 detainees, almost 2,500 were Level 3 detainees and more than 5,100 were non-criminals. #

In the same period, out of more than 6,000 detainees who were removed from the U.S., at least 2,500 were non-criminal detainees — compared to 1,200 who were Level 1 or dangerous criminals. Non-criminal and Level 3 detainees made up about 60 percent of people removed.

In a community forum held last week in Florida City, participants warned that if the current immigration bills become law in Florida the reality of arbitrary arrests and deportation would be an economic burden for Florida taxpayers and increase violations of due process.

Internal Documents Prove ICE Misled Public About Secure Communities

Feb 28th, 20111 Comment

Internal Documents Prove ICE Misled Public About Secure Communities

February 22, 2011
By Thomas Francis

Florida Center for Investigative Reporting

Officials with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement deliberately misled the public and local law enforcement agencies about the immigration-enforcement program Secure Communities.

Internal e-mails obtained by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network show how ICE spokespersons rehearsed phrases that would frame Secure Communities as targeting the most violent illegal immigrants, even as evidence mounted that the majority of those deported through Secure Communities were arrested for a non-violent crime or detained despite having no criminal record.
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Launched in 2008, Secure Communities is an information-sharing program through which local law enforcement agencies provide federal immigration officials with access to biometric information such as fingerprints of arrestees. If cross-referencing reveals a suspect is in the United States illegally, immigration officials can issue a detainer and deport the undocumented immigrant.

The Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center allege Secure Communities encourages racial profiling and discourages immigrants from reporting crimes or otherwise cooperating voluntarily with law enforcement.

Among documents released is an undated internal memo titled “Guidance for Handling Sensitive Jurisdictions.” The memo coaches ICE staff to say Secure Communities “focuses ICE enforcement on the worst of the worst,” emphasizing that the program “does not focus on undocumented aliens who are victims of, or innocent witnesses, to crime.”

Both seem to act as weasel phrases, exploiting the ambiguity of the word “focus.” That word speaks to the agency’s intent, but it obscures the real-world effect of Secure Communities: namely, that it deports more of the “low-priority” non-criminal immigrants than it does violent criminals who rank as “high-priority” targets.

The Florida Center for Investigative Reporting published an investigation on Jan. 31 that showed how these trends are even more pronounced in Florida, where only 20 percent of those deported through the program had been convicted of a violent crime. Immigrants with no criminal history accounted for 42 percent of Florida deportations through Secure Communities.

But the most flagrantly misleading aspect of Secure Communities deals with the claim, first made during the program’s 2009 debut, that local jurisdiction could simply “opt out” if they weren’t comfortable sharing information with ICE.

An August 2009 e-mail shows how an ICE spokesperson, Randi Greenberg, acknowledged the opt-out provision might not be around to stay. “The SC initiative will remain voluntary at both the state and local level,” wrote Greenberg, referring to a conversation with Secure Communities Acting Director Marc Rapp. “Until such time as localities begin to push back on participation, we will continue with this current line of thinking.”

Eventually, a handful of local governments, including California’s Santa Clara County, did push back, and the e-mail records disclosed by ICE show how the agency inched away from its prior claims about the ability to opt out.

A January 2010 correspondence documents how two ICE officials recommend that Rapp do away with Secure Communities’ voluntary feature. “Because of course if we adopt the ‘it’s not an option’ point of view, that certainly simplifies life, no?” wrote an ICE official whose name is redacted.

In June 2010, Greenberg updated ICE’s frequently-asked-questions section, which included a revision of the phrasing related to the opt-out. Judging by the reaction of at least one ICE official, this was a common event.

“I’m totally confused now,” wrote an ICE staffer whose name is redacted. “I’ve got so many versions of the opt-out language I don’t know what’s current and what’s not. It seems like we have different language for different purposes and it’s confusing.”

Records show that in 2010 ICE watered down the opt-out policy until it was only possible for a local law enforcement agency to opt out of receiving messages about the immigration status of those arrested. It was no longer possible to refuse sharing information with ICE, though ICE still called this an “opt-out.”

It wasn’t until October 2010 that federal officials acknowledged that local jurisdictions could not opt out of Secure Communities. ICE, backed by anti-immigration groups, continued to defend the program on the basis that an illegal immigrant is, by definition, a criminal and that the federal government has an obligation to deport immigrants it learns are residing in the United States illegally.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement formalized its partnership with Secure Communities in June 2010, a period during which it was hard to discern whether local agencies could opt out or not.

In its role as the custodian of identification records for all the state’s law enforcement agencies, FDLE had ample reason to obtain a clear definition of whether those agencies could opt before partnering with Secure Communities.

Heather Smith, a spokesperson for FDLE, told FCIR that none of Florida’s local law enforcement agencies has requested to opt out of Secure Communities.

“Florida’s local law enforcement has actively shared arrest fingerprint information with the federal government for years,” Smith said. “There are no local law enforcement agencies in Florida who have expressed to FDLE that they would like to opt out of this program.”

Immigrant rights groups file injunction for Secure Communities opt-out info

Oct 28th, 2010No Comments

Immigrant rights groups file injunction for Secure Communities opt-out info
By Marcos Restrepo 10/28/10 4:45 PM

The National Day Laborer Organization Network, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Kathryn O. Greenberg Immigration Justice Clinic of the Cardozo School of Law announced today that they filed “an injunction in federal court to require Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to turn over documents that would explain how communities could opt out” of Secure Communities a fingerprint-sharing, immigration enforcement program.

Hannah Weinstein, of the Kathryn O. Greenberg Immigration Justice Clinic, said during the press conference, “We still don’t know how communities can opt out of Secure Communities.

“Plaintiffs need information to have a meaningful debate requesting opt-out records now, as communities discuss the breadth of Secure Communities.”

The press release states that “so far, at least, San Francisco and Santa Clara, California, and Arlington, Virginia, have formally requested to opt-out of S-Comm. The emergency injunction is being filed before those municipalities who have voted to opt-out are scheduled to meet with ICE in early November.”

Esteban Garces, of Arlington-based Tenant and Workers United, tells The Florida Independent, “Residents of Buckingham Community live in fear, do not want to cooperate with the police. We have even noticed an 80 percent drop in English class registration.”

Pablo Alvarado of the National Day Laborer Organization Network, who spoke at the press conference, said,

We [day laborers] have become symbols of the contentious and divisive debate on broken the immigration system and have been targeted by Minutemen and white supremacists.

We have seen racial profiling firsthand. It is surprising to us that the Obama Administration is giving local law enforcement tools to profile Latinos.

Secure Communities not only encourages racial profiling it also diverts funds and erodes trust between communities and local law enforcement and it works under the flawed assumption that deporting record numbers makes us safe.

Sunita Patel of the Center for Constitutional Rights said during the press conference, “Secure Communities operates in jails and prisons across the nation and currently operates in 746 jurisdictions in 34 states.”

According to ICE, “Secure Communities has resulted in the arrest of more than 59,000 convicted criminal aliens, including more than 21,000 convicted of major violent offenses like murder, rape, and the sexual abuse of children.”

In February, the three groups involved filed a FOIA request about how Secure Communities works. Released during the summer, those documents showed that 66 percent of Secure Communities deportations are of non-criminals.

Few deported aliens have serious criminal records, activists say (Miami Herald)

Aug 19th, 20101 Comment

Few deported aliens have serious criminal records, activists say

BY ALFONSO CHARDY

[email protected]

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has touted an 18-month-old program under which county jails forward suspects’ fingerprints to Homeland Security as a key tool in quickly identifying dangerous foreign criminals.

But internal ICE documents released Tuesday by immigrant and civil rights activists contradict the agency’s claim, according to an analysis of the documents by the advocates which include the respected Center for Constitutional Rights and the immigration justice clinic at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, both in New York City.

Release of the documents is the latest salvo by immigrant rights advocates who believe ICE has become a rogue agency bent on undermining civil rights and President Obama’s stated policy of focusing on dangerous foreign criminals first. The documents outline the work of the ICE booking center program known as Secure Communities.

Suspects booked at a county jail linked to the program have their fingeprints shared with several agencies including Homeland Security. If ICE, a Homeland Security agency, is interested in one of the foreign suspects, it lodges an immigration “detainer” or hold so the suspect cannot be immediately released. Before Secure Communities, immigration authorities relied on jail officials to alert them about foreign nationals in local jails or periodically checked local jail records themselves.

ICE says Secure Communities assists the agency in quickly identifying dangerous foreign criminals so they can be placed in deportation proceedings before being released on bail or their own recognizance.

The agency did not dispute the activists’s findings. But ICE reiterated its belief that Secure Communities is crucial to shielding U.S. communities from dangerous foreign criminals.

“Secure Communities gives ICE the ability to work with our state and local law enforcement partners to identify criminal aliens who are already in their custody, expediting their removal and keeping our communities safer, part of the Department’s overall focus on identifying and removing convicted criminal aliens who pose a threat to public safety,” said ICE spokesman Temple Black.

To date, he added, the program has identified more than 262,900 foreign nationals in jails and prisons who have been charged with or convicted of criminal offenses, including more than 39,000 charged with or convicted of major violent or drug offenses. Black said the program led to the deportation of more than 34,600 convicted criminal foreigners, including more than 9,800 convicted of major violent or drug offenses.

The analysis of the documents by the activists, however, says that the majority or 79 percent of people deported in connection to Secure Communities were non-criminals or had been picked up by local police for relatively minor offenses including traffic violations or petty juvenile mischief.

Among participants in a conference call for journalists to brief them on the documents, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, was Jonathan Fried, executive director of the Homestead immigrant rights group WeCount!. He told the story of a young immigrant woman from Latin America deported after being booked at a Miami-Dade County jail. Fried believes ICE learned of the woman’s undocumented status because of Secure Communitiues even though she had no criminal record.

“An example is the mother of two beautiful young U.S. citizen children who was deported last year,” said Fried. “She was stopped by a… police officer returning from taking her children to school and charged with no valid driver license. As a result of Secure Communities, an immigration hold was placed on her and she was deported, leaving her two young children, without their mother, in the care of relatives.”

The activists’s analysis also contained a county-by-county breakdown on the number of foreign nationals identified through Secure Communities and subsequently deported.

Four counties in Florida — Miami-Dade, Broward, St. Lucie and Hillsborough — are among counties nationwide with the highest number of immigrants with no criminal backgrounds deported due to Secure Communities since the program began, the analysis said.

Sixty six percent of immigrants deported due to Secure Communities in Miami-Dade were non criminals, according to the analysis. In Hilsborough, the rate was also 66 percent while in Broward, it was 71 percent and St. Lucie 79 percent.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Tuesday that her intention is to deploy Secure Communities in all “law enforcement jurisdictions” in the country by 2013.

Napolitano spoke as she announced that Secure Communities has just been deployed to all 25 U.S. counties along the Southwest border.

She added that Secure Communities has grown from only 14 jurisdictions at the beginning to 544 today. ICE announced June 29 that all 67 counties in Florida are now linked to Secure Communities.

Secure Communities under scrutiny (Florida Independent)

Aug 11th, 2010No Comments

Secure Communities under scrutiny

By Marcos Restrepo 8/11/10 8:44 AM


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.”

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