“Sort of True” Still “Good Enuf” for ICE: Newly Disclosed Documents Confirm ICE Detainers are Voluntary, Suggest ICE Misled Public About Costs of Compliance

“Sort of True” Still “Good Enuf” for ICE

Newly Disclosed Documents Confirm ICE Detainers are Voluntary, Suggest ICE Misled Public About Costs of Compliance

July 6, 2012—Newly disclosed internal documents from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) repeatedly describe immigration detainers as voluntary “requests” and confirm that there is no “procedure[] to force a[ local law enforcement agency] to honor detainers.” The documents also show that ICE does not reimburse localities for detainer costs and that officials considered providing misleading information to reporters to obscure the lack of federal funding.

The question of local control over immigration detainers has assumed prominence as cities and states address harms caused by ICE’s “Secure Communities” deportation program (http://altopolimigra.com/s-comm-shadow-report/). Today’s disclosure comes before a national week of action to “Restore Trust” by limiting police collaboration with ICE. Over the past year, Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Washington, DC, and Santa Clara County, California have all passed local laws limiting compliance with immigration detainers. The California Senate is currently considering a similar bill at the statewide level, known as the “TRUST Act.” Backers of the laws say they are necessary to repair public trust destroyed by S-Comm.

The documents disclosed today confirm that compliance with immigration detainers is a matter of local discretion. Local authorities are not required to detain people in order to assist ICE deportations. The documents also confirm that the federal government does not reimburse locals for detainer-related cost. But ICE may have suggested otherwise to reporters. In one email, an ICE official considered telling a reporter that a federal funding program covers the cost of detainers despite acknowledging that “[s]aying [the] money is available for detainer cases is a little out of whack.” Another official responded by suggesting the statement would be “sort-of true . . . and that’s good enuf!” [sic].

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Newly Obtained Documents Reveal Secure Communities Program Leads to Deportations of People Who Have Never Been Arrested, Despite Objection of California Department of Justice (PR)

Newly Obtained Documents Reveal Secure Communities Program Leads to Deportations of People Who Have Never Been Arrested, Despite Objection of California Department of Justice

July 3, 2012—Today, advocates released emails from the FBI and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) that show that ICE’s controversial Secure Communities deportation program is sweeping in individuals who have never been criminally arrested, despite objections raised by the California Department of Justice. The emails—which were obtained as a result of Freedom of Information Act litigation brought by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the Cardozo Immigration Justice Clinic—show that people who are unable to satisfactorily identify themselves at drivers’ license checkpoints are processed for deportation through Secure Communities.

According to the emails, in May 2011, California attempted to obtain assurance from ICE and the FBI that “the [Secure Communities] Program will only affect persons who are arrested for a crime, and not those who may simply be stopped at a drivers’ license checkpoint.” Instead of providing the requested assurance, the FBI apparently informed California that even prints for individuals who had been arrested for identification purposes only would have their immigration status checked through Secure Communities. Moreover, the FBI informed California that, although it was technically possible to change this process, it would not do so.

The audacity of this response was not lost on federal officials, who acknowledged that the “answer is going to create an issue,” and that “DHS/ICE” had previously made “abundantly clear . . .” that Secure Communities “is only for individuals being booked into jail.”

The emails were originally disclosed in heavily redacted form in August 2011. Less redacted versions were disclosed in June 2012. This is the first time they have been publicly released.

Chris Newman, Legal Director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, said: “This is the latest proof that Secure Communities is not a targeted immigration enforcement program, but a deportation dragnet. California must take action to protect its residents against this Arizona-like program. We call on the California Senate to pass the TRUST Act to restore a bright line between criminal and immigration enforcement.”

Sonia R. Lin, Clinical Teaching Fellow at the Cardozo Immigration Justice Clinic, said: “Secure Communities turns drivers’ license checkpoints into a ‘show me your papers’ demand. California’s leaders should heed the advice of law enforcement leaders across the country and prioritize true public safety by standing up to Secure Communities.”

FOIA Documents Released July 3, 2012:

Do not implement Secure Communities in Queens (Times Ledger)

An open letter to U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano:

We, as members of the New York City Council, who represent immigrant communities throughout the city, are disappointed in your decision to deploy Secure Communities in New York City. Implementation of this policy will have devastating effects on the city’s immigrant communities. You should not activate this program in New York.

Since its inception in 2008, the reach of Secure Communities has been overbroad. The goal of the program is to “prioritize the removal of criminal aliens, those who pose a threat to public safety, and repeat immigration violators.”

Yet your data shows that, in fiscal year 2011, 26 percent of all Secure Communities deportations were immigrants with Level 1 convictions, 19 percent of those deported had Level 2 convictions and 29 percent were individuals convicted of Level 3 crimes, which are minor crimes carrying sentences of less than one year. Twenty-six percent of those deported had only immigration violations.

This dragnet approach may lead to the deportation of New Yorkers charged with minor offenses who have lived in this country for more than 10 or 20 years and who have deeply rooted family and community ties. This is wrong.

As you know, in an effort to address the concerns raised by those affected, the Homeland Security Advisory Council’s Task Force on Secure Communities issued a report containing findings and recommendations designed to improve the program in September 2011. Advocates criticized your recent response to that report, which proposed to change little more than the way an individual accused of a traffic violation is treated, as falling far short of what is needed.

We join in that criticism. For example, although the task force recommended that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement improve the transparency of Secure Communities and strengthen accountability mechanisms, there continues to be limited oversight of the program and it remains far too difficult to make a complaint. In light of these facts, we cannot support the program or its activation in the city unless and until the issues raised in the task force report are addressed.

Perhaps most importantly, it is clear to us that the decision to deploy this program in the city will create fear in immigrant communities and corrode the bond between immigrants and the city Police Department. In the city, we have worked to ensure that immigrants feel comfortable accessing local government — in particular, local law enforcement — to report crimes, seek assistance and support their communities.
The deployment of Secure Communities will cause grave damage on all of these fronts. You should reverse your decision to implement Secure Communities in the city.

Christine C. Quinn
Council Speaker
Daniel Dromm
Council Immigration Committee
(D-Jackson Heights)
Melissa Mark-Viverito

PR: Controversy Over "Secure Communities" Deportation Program Widens as FBI Role is Scrutinized At Bi-Annual oversight meeting, Advocates Call on FBI to alter program to protect public safety

Thursday, June 7, 2012
Contact:  Jessica Karp, NDLON: [email protected], 917-855-7682

Controversy Over “Secure Communities” Deportation Program Widens as FBI Role is Scrutinized At Bi-Annual oversight meeting, Advocates Call on FBI to alter program to protect public safety

Buffalo, New York–Today, immigrants’ rights and privacy advocates are addressing the bi-annual meeting of the FBI group charged with managing the nation’s criminal databases. Their topic is the controversial “Secure Communities” deportation program. The advocates say the FBI makes the program possible by automatically forwarding all arrest fingerprints to DHS for an immigration background check. And they say the FBI should change that policy in response to growing calls from governors, police chiefs, and communities across the country–including New York City, Washington D.C., Massachusetts, and Vermont, where Secure Communities was recently activated over strong local opposition.

Said Jessica Karp, Staff Attorney and Soros Fellow with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network: “We know from documents received through the Freedom of Information Act that Secure Communities has generated fierce debate within the FBI between those who support states’ right to opt out and those who want to keep the program mandatory. Top FBI officials have described their position as ‘being caught in a nuclear war,’ saying, ‘[a]ny way we go will contradict one of our partners.’ We hope today’s meeting will show the FBI that the right way forward is clear—it must end its facilitation of this ill-conceived and mismanaged deportation program.”

Sonia Lin, Attorney and Clinical Teaching Fellow at the Cardozo School of Law Immigration Justice Clinic, says: “The FBI is supposed to partner with state and local police to promote public safety. But Secure Communities was imposed on states and local agencies without their consent. It undermines community policing, diverts local resources, and turns local law enforcement agencies into gateways to deportation. The FBI has the authority—and the obligation—to rethink its involvement in this deportation dragnet.”

Travis Hall, a PhD candidate at New York University studying biometric programs, said: “There are many ways to set up biometric databases–they can either increase detrimental forms of surveillance and encroach upon privacy rights, or they can be used to bolster security and be privacy enhancing.  This depends a great deal on the values embedded into the technologies during their design and application.  Right now the Secure Communities program is a textbook case of ‘function creep’, when information collected for one purpose is inappropriately used for another.  It is my hope that the FBI will take into consideration the concerns of privacy and immigration rights activists in setting the standards and policies that structure their collection and dissemination of personally identifiable information.”

D.C. Sets Limits on Fingerprint Program (National Journal)

D.C. Sets Limits on Fingerprint Program
By Stephanie Czekalinski
Updated: June 6, 2012 | 5:15 p.m.
June 6, 2012 | 3:42 p.m.
(AP Photo/Chris Schneider)

Secure Communities, the rapidly growing federal program that uses inmate fingerprints to determine whether people booked into local jails are in the country illegally, launched in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. The District’s council responded by limiting the role that its jails play in the program.

The FBI on Tuesday began sharing the fingerprints of people held in District of Columbia jails with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The change did not sit well with the D.C. government. On Tuesday, the D.C. Council moved to limit the District’s participation in the federal Secure Communities program that uses fingerprints to help ICE identify illegal immigrants booked into local jails and to deport them.

The legislation would limit to 24 hours the amount of time that jailers can hold a detainee for ICE after that person normally would have been released. The jailers will only do that for people convicted of a “dangerous crime or a crime of violence,” and only if the federal government agrees to reimburse the District for the costs of holding that person.

The bill, which awaited the mayor’s signature on Wednesday, is expected to become law within days.

Critics have long argued that the Secure Communities program results in the deportation of people arrested for minor crimes and traffic violations. They also complain that it breeds distrust for local law enforcement among immigrant communities, which see local police as proxies for immigration agents.

Earlier this month, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray released a statement expressing his disappointment that the federal government was going to implement the program in Washington.

“In areas like the District that have large immigrant communities, police rely on the trust of those community members that their immigration status will not be threatened by their cooperation in local law-enforcement investigations,” he wrote in the statement. “Secure Communities jeopardizes that trust, and consequently makes everybody less safe.”

In 2011, Gray signed an executive order directing D.C. police not to detain individuals because of their immigration status.

Virginia and Maryland both participate in the program. According to ICE, 3,594 people convicted of crimes have been deported after being booked into their jails since 2009.

Since 2008, ICE has removed more than 189,700 immigrations nationwide. More than 55 percent of those were deported after being arrested for minor crimes; overstaying a visa or ignoring a deportation order; or returning to the country after being deported. At least 51,600 of those deported through the program had been convicted of major drug offenses, national-security crimes, and violent crimes such as murder, robbery, rape, and kidnapping.

States and other jurisdictions cannot opt out of the program, according to ICE. When state and local authorities arrest someone and run their fingerprints through an FBI database, that information is automatically shared with ICE.

ICE agents then determine whether to ask jails to hold that person until they can come to take them into custody.