FOIA Documents: Vulnerable Groups
On April 10, 2012, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Cardozo Immigration Justice Clinic, and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network released 16 documents obtained though Freedom of Information Act litigation as part of the Uncover the Truth campaign.
The documents confirm that ICE has long been aware of particular risks, including civil rights concerns, that its Secure Communities (S-Comm) enforcement program poses to vulnerable groups like naturalized US Citizens, juveniles, and victims of crimes, including survivors of domestic violence.
Despite this awareness, ICE has responded reactively with either inadequate, cosmetic reforms or ad hoc solutions in individual cases. One such case is that of Isaura Garcia, a Los Angeles resident, mother and domestic violence survivor. The documents show ICE’s reaction to news about Ms. Garcia’s detention and placement in deportation proceedings after she called 911 for help. As documented in these e-mails, ICE’s response is a scrambled exercise in damage control, partnered with a willingness to blame their local law enforcement partner, the Los Angeles Police Department, rather than face up to the obvious: that S-Comm was the culprit the City of Los Angeles never invited.
A document shows that ICE expected local law enforcement to either alert ICE about crime victims or simply not fingerprint them in the first place. ICE’s subsequent June 2011 memo about prosecutorial discretion for victims and witnesses similarly puts the burden on individuals outside the agency – specifically, attorneys or advocates – to alert the agency about crime victims and witnesses caught up in S-Comm’s dragnet-like design.
ICE’s disregard is further illustrated by a document regarding another case about a domestic violence victim from Lodi, California, who was arrested with her abuser and deported before the resolution of any criminal proceedings. In discussing the case, ICE officials joked “This must have been a good fight!”
The lack of any process by ICE for protecting vulnerable groups shows that far from being targeted at “the worst of the worst,” S-Comm casts an immense net, in its wake leaving the community and local police to deal with the damage done to families and public safety.
The result has been fear in immigrant communities that has undermined public trust in local law enforcement and prevented victims and witnesses from coming forward, such as in the case of the sexual abuse tragedy at Miramonte Elementary School in the Los Angeles Unified School District which came to light this spring.
As for U.S. citizens caught up in S-Comm, one of the documents show that an individual’s claim of citizenship and the provision of a U.S. birth certificate failed to satisfy ICE. A Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General report released April 5, 2012 only further establishes that a substantial number of people identified through S-Comm are in fact U.S. citizens.
Advocates hope that the documents released today will shed further light on risks posed by S-Comm, and bring further momentum to state and local efforts to limit compliance with this deportation dragnet. The next release of documents will point to ICE’s inadequate handling of racial profiling problems associated with S-Comm.