Secure Communities Scrutiny Expands to FBI
Advocates call for investigation of FBI’s role in deportation program after disturbing surveillance program is revealed by FOIA documents.
September 12, 2011 – Washington, DC. Yesterday, on the tenth anniversary of September 11th, 70 civil rights, immigrants’ rights, and privacy rights groups sent a letter calling on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate the FBI’s role in the controversial Secure Communities deportation program (S-Comm) and the Next Generation Identification (NGI) initiative. The letter urged an immediate Inspector General audit of both programs.
Documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act litigation by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the Cardozo Immigration Justice Clinic revealed that S-Comm is the first step in NGI, an unprecedented, billion dollar initiative to create the world’s largest biometric database. NGI will expand on S-Comm by forcing greater collection and dissemination of personal information between federal agencies, without the consent of the states that provide the information. NGI will also expand the types of information collected to include iris scans, palm prints, and facial recognition scans, along with the traditional fingerprints. Both NGI and S-Comm have their roots in the post-September 11th expansion of domestic surveillance and corresponding weakening of privacy protections.
Chris Newman, Legal Programs Director at the National Day Laborer Organizing Network said: “An unfortunate legacy of 9/11 is the onset of a culture of suspicion that conflated fear of terrorists with fear of immigrants. Secretive and misguided programs like S-Comm contributed to this pernicious fear of newcomers. Ten years after 9/11, there is now a vibrant national discussion about how to preserve security without jettisoning core constitutional values. While many may disagree about how to strike an appropriate balance, we can all agree transparency from the very agencies charged with keeping us safe is absolutely essential. The Department of Justice Office of Inspector General must immediately audit the FBI’s role in S-Comm and the so-called Next Generation Identification Initiative.”
Jessica Karp, Staff Attorney with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network said: “S-Comm has been plagued with problems since it began. ICE is now under investigation for lying to Congress, states, and localities about the program’s scope and the role of state and local partners. Illinois, New York, Massachusetts, and many of the nation’s largest cities have said they want no part of S-Comm. They are concerned that it undermines public safety while encouraging pretextual arrests and racial profiling. An investigation of the FBI’s role in this controversial program is urgently needed. The Inspector General must also investigate the extent to which the problems associated with S-Comm are common to the Next Generation Identification initiative as a whole.”