Archive | Press (Illinois)

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel Is Latest to Reject ‘Secure Communities’ Immigration Law (The Daily Beast)

Jul 16th, 2012No Comments

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel Is Latest to Reject ‘Secure Communities’ Immigration Law

Henry Ford used to say that his customers could order a Model T in any color, so long as it was black. Using similar logic, the federal immigrant-deportation program known as “Secure Communities,” which passed in 2008, gave states the unfettered choice of participating or not participating—unless a state chose not to participate. Then the program became mandatory. Today, we are seeing the terrible repercussions of this lopsided logic.

Secure Communities calls on local officials to provide information on arrestees who might be subject to federal immigration holds, called “detainers.” But on Tuesday, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel supported an ordinance prohibiting local law enforcement from turning over to federal authorities immigrants who had no serious criminal records or outstanding warrants. In doing so he joined a growing list of state and local officials—including the governors of New York and Massachusetts—who are seeking to “opt out” of the program.

Why opt out? After all, on its face, Secure Communities, whose stated aim was to focus removal efforts on serious criminals, seemed like a program anyone could support.

Unfortunately, that mission statement had little to do with reality.

The reality was that the federal government collected information on enormous numbers of foreign-born U.S. residents, many of whom were here legally, and many of whom had not been, and never would be, convicted of a crime.

That’s not the program that the federal government promised. In fact, it’s not the program that Immigration and Customs Enforcement director John Morton seemed to be describing as recently as Tuesday when he testified before a House subcommittee.

Immigrants with no criminal record, who fall into no priority category for removal, should not become “targeted” for deportation simply because they made a right turn without signaling.

But dig down into the details and you find a program in which Homeland Security gets the fingerprints of virtually anyone arrested for anything, however trivial, which the department then screens for possible deportation.

Think I’m exaggerating? In his testimony on Tuesday, Morton discussed a major problem with Secure Communities—namely, that a program advertised as focusing on serious criminals was in fact deporting people who’d done nothing more serious than commit, say, a motor-vehicle offense. Or perhaps I should say “allegedly commit,” because their fingerprints were forwarded to Homeland Security before their motor-vehicle case could even be heard by a judge.

What was Morton’s solution to this problem? He announced a new policy in which, rather than making deportation mandatory for traffic offenses, “ICE will only consider issuing detainers for individuals arrested solely for minor traffic offenses who have not been previously convicted of other crimes and do not fall within any other ICE priority category.”

This policy turns reason on its head. It substitutes an exercise of discretion for what should be an exercise of sanity. Quite simply, immigrants with no criminal record, who fall into no priority category for removal, should not become “targeted” for deportation simply because they made a right turn without signaling.

Unfortunately, even the new and improved Secure Communities does not exempt minor traffic offenders from “targeting” by Homeland Security. That’s why whenever ICE tries to justify the program by citing statistics, the numbers are always inflated by aggregation. For instance, in his testimony on Tuesday, Morton boasted that 94 percent of those deported as a result of Secure Communities were convicted criminals, recent border crossers, or visa overstayers.

Visa overstayers? As in students who forget to get their visas renewed? 

When you strip down the aggregated statistics and look at the reality of who gets deported, you learn—as a think tank at Syracuse University recently reported—that only about 14 percent of those deported by ICE actually are charged with criminal conduct. You have to add a lot of minor traffic violators and visa overstayers to inflate that figure to 94 percent.  

No wonder that the mayor of Chicago and the governor of New York want out of the program. By casting its net so broadly in search of ever-bigger numbers, Secure Communities is the worst kind of public policy. A relatively small number of dangerous people get deported, while many other law-abiding immigrants live in fear of making that right-hand turn that will brand them, and their families, as high-priority “targets” of immigration authorities.

When I was district attorney, I saw another effect of such reckless immigration policies: too often, immigrants are reluctant to report crimes, or even come to court as witnesses, for fear that any contact with the criminal-justice system would bring them to the notice of immigration officials. The result is that criminals who prey on immigrants—truly evil offenders like human traffickers—know that fear of law enforcement is their great ally.

This is a terrible problem with a simple solution: the federal government should allow states and localities to opt out of Secure Communities. In his remarks on Tuesday, Rahm Emanuel delivered a message to law-abiding immigrants: “We want to welcome you to the city of Chicago.”

That message was a poignant one for me. My paternal grandfather, Henry Morgenthau Sr., and his three younger brothers arrived in New York from Mannheim, Germany, on June 4, 1866, when he was 10 years old. A little more than five years later, he was admitted to the City College of New York. He worked in a law firm to help support his parents and 11 siblings. He attended and graduated from Columbia Law School while teaching immigrants at night in high school. At that time, the doors were wide open for immigrants to obtain an education—the kind of message a lot of our families received in coming to America. It should not today be silenced by the mandatory application of a vastly overzealous law.

First Legal Challenge to Bush-Obama Anti-Immigrant Program (AllGov)

Jul 11th, 2012No Comments

A growing number of United States citizens have been wrongfully detained under a government program intended to detect undocumented immigrants who are arrested by local police–and now one of them is fighting back.

Chicago-area resident James Makowski, who was adopted from India as an infant and became a naturalized U.S. citizen at the age of 1, was arrested on July 7, 2010, and incarcerated at the maximum-security federal prison in Pontiac, Illinois, for two months before immigration officials acknowledged his citizenship and ordered him released. With the help of the National Immigrant Justice Center in Chicago, Makowski, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps, has filed sued against the government, alleging that the program violated the Privacy Act of 1974. He is seeking damages for wrongful imprisonment, lost wages, attorney fees and costs, and emotional pain and suffering.
 
At issue is the Secure Communities program, initiated by the George W. Bush administration in 2008 and expanded by President Barack Obama, which checks the fingerprints of every person booked at local jails against FBI and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) databases for immigration problems. If a match results, federal agents can issue a detainer asking local authorities to hold a suspect up to 48 hours. Since 2008, the FBI has disclosed more than 16.2 million fingerprint records to DHS, which has identified more than 918,000 possible problem cases.
 
Makowski, who was incarcerated under a drug conviction when the fingerprint check erroneously identified him as undocumented, notes that the data also means that the FBI has shared more than 15 million fingerprint records of American citizens or legal permanent residents. Attorney Mark Fleming, who is representing Makowski, argues that “The FBI and DHS are consistently and systematically violating the Privacy Act,” which restricts how and when government agencies may share information about citizens.
 
Although supporters of Secure Communities have touted it as a neutral means of identifying and removing potentially dangerous undocumented immigrants that avoids the potential for racial profiling inherent in visually-based determinations, citizens wrongfully detained have tended to be brown. Makowski was born in Calcutta, India.
 
In a case reported by AllGov last year, Los Angeles resident Antonio Montejano, a U.S.-born citizen, was wrongly held for days because of bad information obtained via Secure Communities. Immigration officials refused to believe that he was a citizen, because, Montejano said, “I look Mexican 100 percent.”

Undocumented Life: Chicago-area U.S. citizen becomes first to sue over detention under Secure Communities (Chicago Now)

Jul 11th, 2012No Comments
By MariaZamudio
When James Makowski pleaded guilty to drug possession in 2010, he agreed to enter a 120-day boot camp as punishment. He figured it wouldn’t be as bad as the boot camp he completed when he entered the U.S. Marines.

But instead of boot camp, James ended up serving two months in a maximum security prison in Pontiac, Ill.

Makowski’s fingerprints were submitted to an FBI database and later shared with the homeland security department’s Automated Biometric Identification System. His name was flagged and an immigration “detainer” was issued.

The problem is that Makowski is a U.S. citizen.

Now the Chicago-area resident is suing the FBI and Homeland Security, becoming the first U.S. citizen to challenge Secure Communities–the federal program that helps local authorities identify potentially undocumented immigrants.

“I pleaded guilty with the understanding that I would only do boot camp. But because the detainer was issued I was disqualified from entering the boot camp,” he told The Chicago Reporter. “I was pretty shocked. I couldn’t believe it. I’m a U.S. citizen. I felt like I was hit by a freight train. I was upset, depressed and helpless.”

Makowski was born in India. He was adopted by an American family when he was 4 months old.  The family moved around the country before settling in Illinois. Makowski became a naturalized U.S. citizen at age 1, but the government did not update his immigration records, according to Mark Fleming, attorney with the Chicago-based National Immigrant Justice Center.

Under Secure Communities, fingerprints of anyone arrested by local law enforcement agencies are submitted to the FBI and are later shared with DHS.

“Part of the problem here is that immigration officials never bothered to interview him,” said Geoffrey A. Vance, who is representing Makowski. “If they did they would have known that he was a citizen. They relied on the data and never bothered to check.”

Makowski’s lawsuit was filed last week in U.S. District Court of Northern Illinois and it argues that the FBI and Department of Homeland Security violated the Privacy Act, which restricts what information may be passed between government agencies, every time they share fingerprints from people who are not suspected of an immigration violation, according to the lawsuit.

Immigration officials deny having violated the Privacy Act.

“The information-sharing partnership between the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI serves as the cornerstone of Secure Communities, and fulfills a mandate required by federal law. This information sharing does not violate the Privacy Act. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is evaluating the allegations contained in the lawsuit; however, we do not comment on pending litigation,” officials said in a prepared statement.

The Secure Communities program was designed to find and deport dangerous criminals, but a Chicago Reporter investigation found that many of the undocumented immigrants in Illinois being placed in deportation proceeded had no criminal record.

In Illinois, 46 percent of 3,023 people who were booked into immigration custody under Secure Communities between Nov. 24, 2009, and July 25, 2011, were never charged with, or convicted of, the crimes for which they were arrested, according to the Reporter’s analysis of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security records.

Another 29 percent were charged with one misdemeanor, which in many cases stemmed from a traffic violation, before being taken into immigration custody, the analysis shows.

But immigration officials say the Secure Communities program has been successful at identifying dangerous criminals.

Local immigration officials say Secure Communities helped find a 23-year-old undocumented immigrant last month in Lake County. His record shows that he had a previous conviction for human smuggling in Arizona in 2008, according to Gail Montenegro, spokeswoman for the enforcement agency.

But Fleming of the National Immigrant Justice Center says Makowski and other U.S. citizens are at risk.

“U.S. citizens are a vulnerable population to Secure Communities,” he said.

Makowski said he just hopes his experience is not repeated, and wants the lawsuit to change the system.

“If my family didn’t have the resources I don’t know where I would be,” he said. “There are plenty of people who don’t have these resources.”

Undocumented Life: Chicago-area U.S. citizen becomes first to sue over detention under Secure Communities (The Chicago Reporter)

Jul 9th, 2012No Comments
By MariaZamudio
When James Makowski pleaded guilty to drug possession in 2010, he agreed to enter a 120-day boot camp as punishment. He figured it wouldn’t be as bad as the boot camp he completed when he entered the U.S. Marines.

But instead of boot camp, James ended up serving two months in a maximum security prison in Pontiac, Ill.

Makowski’s fingerprints were submitted to an FBI database and later shared with the homeland security department’s Automated Biometric Identification System. His name was flagged and an immigration “detainer” was issued.

The problem is that Makowski is a U.S. citizen.

Now the Chicago-area resident is suing the FBI and Homeland Security, becoming the first U.S. citizen to challenge Secure Communities–the federal program that helps local authorities identify potentially undocumented immigrants.

“I pleaded guilty with the understanding that I would only do boot camp. But because the detainer was issued I was disqualified from entering the boot camp,” he told The Chicago Reporter. “I was pretty shocked. I couldn’t believe it. I’m a U.S. citizen. I felt like I was hit by a freight train. I was upset, depressed and helpless.”

Makowski was born in India. He was adopted by an American family when he was 4 months old.  The family moved around the country before settling in Illinois. Makowski became a naturalized U.S. citizen at age 1, but the government did not update his immigration records, according to Mark Fleming, attorney with the Chicago-based National Immigrant Justice Center.

Under Secure Communities, fingerprints of anyone arrested by local law enforcement agencies are submitted to the FBI and are later shared with DHS.

“Part of the problem here is that immigration officials never bothered to interview him,” said Geoffrey A. Vance, who is representing Makowski. “If they did they would have known that he was a citizen. They relied on the data and never bothered to check.”

Makowski’s lawsuit was filed last week in U.S. District Court of Northern Illinois and it argues that the FBI and Department of Homeland Security violated the Privacy Act, which restricts what information may be passed between government agencies, every time they share fingerprints from people who are not suspected of an immigration violation, according to the lawsuit.

Immigration officials deny having violated the Privacy Act.

“The information-sharing partnership between the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI serves as the cornerstone of Secure Communities, and fulfills a mandate required by federal law. This information sharing does not violate the Privacy Act. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is evaluating the allegations contained in the lawsuit; however, we do not comment on pending litigation,” officials said in a prepared statement.

The Secure Communities program was designed to find and deport dangerous criminals, but a Chicago Reporter investigation found that many of the undocumented immigrants in Illinois being placed in deportation proceeded had no criminal record.

In Illinois, 46 percent of 3,023 people who were booked into immigration custody under Secure Communities between Nov. 24, 2009, and July 25, 2011, were never charged with, or convicted of, the crimes for which they were arrested, according to the Reporter’s analysis of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security records.

Another 29 percent were charged with one misdemeanor, which in many cases stemmed from a traffic violation, before being taken into immigration custody, the analysis shows.

But immigration officials say the Secure Communities program has been successful at identifying dangerous criminals.

Local immigration officials say Secure Communities helped find a 23-year-old undocumented immigrant last month in Lake County. His record shows that he had a previous conviction for human smuggling in Arizona in 2008, according to Gail Montenegro, spokeswoman for the enforcement agency.

But Fleming of the National Immigrant Justice Center says Makowski and other U.S. citizens are at risk.

“U.S. citizens are a vulnerable population to Secure Communities,” he said.

Makowski said he just hopes his experience is not repeated, and wants the lawsuit to change the system.

“If my family didn’t have the resources I don’t know where I would be,” he said. “There are plenty of people who don’t have these resources.”

Renewed Pitch for Immigration Program (Chicago Cooperative)

Jun 29th, 2011No Comments

Renewed Pitch for Immigration Program
by KARI LYDERSEN | Jun 28, 2011

The director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement visited Chicago Tuesday in an apparent attempt to bolster support for a troubled immigration enforcement program championed by the Obama administration.

ICE director John Morton met with a representative of Gov. Pat Quinn and immigrants right activists at the agency’s Chicago headquarters to tout reforms made to Secure Communities, according to Joshua Hoyt, director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, who attended the meeting.

Secure Communities is a federal data-sharing program intended to catch and deport undocumented immigrants convicted of serious crimes. But ICE’s statistics through February 2011 show that 32 percent of immigrants put into deportation proceedings in Illinois had no criminal convictions. Nationwide, 28 percent had no criminal record.

In May, Illinois became the first state in the nation to withdraw from the program. New York and Massachusetts have since followed suit. And internal ICE documents from last spring show that ICE officials undertook a months-long campaign to force Chicago and Cook County to join the program despite city and county ordinances that prohibit local law enforcement from participating in immigration enforcement.

ICE spokeswoman Leticia Zamarripa said Morton made a “short visit” to Chicago but did not offer any specifics.

At the meeting, Hoyt said, Morton repeated the agency’s claim that participation in Secure Communities is mandatory and he highlighted changes to the program that were announced June 17, such as the formation of an advisory committee to address people targeted by Secure Communities as a result of traffic stops; a re view process for the immigration cases of people picked up for traffic offenses; and training videos and briefings for law enforcement agencies intended to prevent racial profiling.

“The reforms amount to a memo, a training and a study,” Hoyt said. “That’s the triple crown of bureaucratic side-stepping. It’s too late at this point for pretty words and nice memos. They’re desperately trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube. They were fired for their incompetence in Illinois, but his position is that they want to continue the program.”

Hoyt said they were told Morton also met with law enforcement representatives, including former Chicago Police Superintendent Terry Hillard, who now works as a private security consultant. Reached at his office, Hillard said, “All the information needs to come from ICE.”

A spokesman for Quinn’s office said he was not aware of the meeting.

During the meetings, immigrants rights advocates protested outside ICE’s downtown office, saying Morton should have met with immigrants directly impacted by the program.

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