Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick Refuses to Sign onto S-Comm (Boston Herald)

Gov. Deval Patrick refuses to sign immigration program
By Hillary Chabot
Monday, June 6, 2011

A backpedaling Gov. Deval Patrick refused to sign onto a national security program — already in place in Boston — that would target illegal immigrants who have already been arrested, citing concerns about its effectiveness and potential for racial profiling.

“The Governor and I are dubious of the Commonwealth taking on the federal role of immigration enforcement,” wrote Patrick’s Secretary of Public Safety Mary Beth Heffernan in a letter to Immigration Customs Enforcement officials. “We are even more skeptical of the potential impact that Secure Communities could have on the residents of the Commonwealth. Through the community meetings we have held around the Commonwealth, residents have expressed concerns about racial profiling as a result of the program.”

Patrick said he would sign onto the program last December when the White House indicated participation was mandatory — but Patrick’s administration suggested that required involvement is up in the air.

The letter, which Patrick’s administration sent Friday, also charges ICE officials with “sending conflicting messages” about the Secure Communities program. Patrick’s move comes as two other states pulled out of the program over the last few months.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said last week he was withdrawing from Secure Communities, saying it hasn’t deported felons. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn decided in early May to bow out of the program, saying many of the people deported hadn’t committed a serious crime.

Lawmakers in California are also pushing legislation that would withdraw the state from the program.

The Secure Communities Program requires participating law enforcement agencies to share data on criminal suspects with federal immigration authorities. The Boston Police Department have participated successfully since 2006, and it’s meant to identify and deport violent criminals.

How a Democracy Works (NYT)

How a Democracy Works

Published: June 3, 2011

President Obama, who has spent two and a half years not delivering on his promise to fix immigration, gave a speech in El Paso last month and cloaked his failure in tough statistics — this many new border agents, that much fencing, these thousands of deportations.

As for the other parts of reform — where millions of immigrants get right with the law and get on with becoming Americans, where workers are better protected — he threw up his hands. He said immigration advocates “wish I could just bypass Congress and change the law myself. But that’s not how a democracy works.”

O.K., so maybe it isn’t. But there is a lot President Obama can and should do, using the discretion and authority granted to the executive branch and its agencies to make the system work better:

Mr. Obama can bolster public safety by pulling the plug on Secure Communities, a program that sends fingerprints of everyone booked by state or local police to Department of Homeland Security databases to be checked for immigration violations. It was supposed to focus on dangerous felons, but the heavy majority of those it catches are noncriminals or minor offenders — more than 30 percent have no convictions for anything.

The president should listen to the many law enforcement professionals and local officials, like the governors of New York and Illinois, who want nothing to do with Secure Communities. They say it endangers the public by catching the wrong people and stifling community cooperation with law enforcement.

  • The president can push much harder against the noxious anti-immigrant laws proliferating in the national free-for-all. The administration sued to stop Arizona’s radical scheme. But Utah, Alabama, Indiana and Georgia are trying to do the same thing.
  • He can grant relief from deportation to young people who would have qualified for the Dream Act, a filibustered bill that grants legal status to the innocent undocumented who enter college or the military. He can do the same for workers who would qualify for the Power Act, a stalled bill that seeks to prevent employers from using the threat of deportation and immigration raids to retaliate against employees who press for their rights on the job.
  • He can resist Republican lawmakers who want mandatory nationwide use of E-Verify, a flawed hiring database, which would likely lead to thousands of Americans losing their job because of data errors. A December report by the Government Accountability Office warned that E-Verify is plagued by inaccurate records and vulnerable to identity theft and employer fraud.
  • He can order the citizenship agency to keep families intact by making it easier for illegal immigrants who are immediate relatives of American citizens to fix their status without having to leave the country. Many already qualify for green cards but are afraid to risk getting stuck abroad under too-strict laws that could bar their re-entry.
  • He can bolster the civil rights division of the Department of Justice and give the Department of Labor more tools to strengthen protections for all workers and the authority to combat labor trafficking. Such authority now lies with Homeland Security, which means many immigrants are too frightened to speak up when their rights are abused.

As President Obama said in El Paso, the United States needs to address “the real human toll of a broken immigration system.” There’s work to do, Mr. President.

Former District Attorney Robert Morgenthau Applauds Governor Cuomo’s Suspension of the Flawed Secure Communities Program (PR)

Former District Attorney Robert Morgenthau Applauds Governor Cuomo’s Suspension of the Flawed Secure Communities Program

For immediate release: June 1, 2011
Contact: (212) 403-1223

I strongly support Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s courageous decision to suspend New York’s participation in Secure Communities pending a review of the program.  I have long been concerned about the issues that arise when local police indiscriminately share information with federal immigration authorities. Specifically, cooperation with federal immigration officials creates a lack of trust in law enforcement among the public. This makes it hard for police and prosecutors to do their jobs because immigrants become reluctant to report crimes or cooperate with investigations. That is why, during the 35 years I was district attorney in Manhattan, my policy was to never share the names of individuals involved with the criminal justice system to immigration authorities until after they were convicted of a serious crime. Programs like Secure Communities, which require automatic immigration database checks for people arrested by local police upon booking, magnify the problems I tried so hard to avoid.

About a year ago, I drafted an editorial in the Wall Street Journal calling for a more nuanced approach to the cooperation between local authorities and federal immigration officials. I am now encouraged that the Governor and other elected officials around the country share my concerns and are taking a critical look at overbroad state and local immigration enforcement cooperation programs like Secure Communities.

New York state law enforcement officials have no obligation to spend time and resources, and endanger their critical mission of keeping our communities safe, to enforce federal immigration law. The Governor’s decision to suspend New York’s participation in the Secure Communities program is an important step toward separating the roles of local police and federal immigration authorities in the eyes of the public, and also protecting New Yorkers from suffering often cruel and unfair treatment in the federal immigration system.

Cuomo Ends State’s Role in Checking Immigrants

Cuomo Ends State’s Role in Checking Immigrants
Published: June 1, 2011

Photo by Marcus Yam for The New York Times

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Wednesday that he was suspending New York’s participation in a federal immigration enforcement plan that has drawn fire from immigrant advocates, civil liberties lawyers and elected officials in the state and around the country.

A statement from Mr. Cuomo’s office said there was “mounting evidence” that the program, called Secure Communities, had not only failed to meet its goal of deporting the most serious immigrant criminals but was also undermining law enforcement and compromising public safety.

“There are concerns about the implementation of the program as well as its impact on families, immigrant communities and law enforcement in New York,” Mr. Cuomo said. Unless those concerns are eased, the statement said, New York will not take part.

Mr. Cuomo’s decision makes New York the second state to announce its intention to withdraw from the program, and sets up a confrontation with the Obama administration, which has made Secure Communities a cornerstone of immigration enforcement strategy. Gov. Pat Quinn of Illinois said in May that he was canceling his state’s participation.

Under the program, begun by the Bush administration in 2008, the fingerprints of everyone booked into a local or county jail are sent to the Department of Homeland Security and compared with prints in its files. If officials find that a suspect is in the country illegally, or is a noncitizen with a criminal record, they may seek to deport the person.

By Wednesday, that fingerprint sharing had been introduced in about 41 percent of the nation’s jurisdictions, including 27 of 62 counties in New York. Mr. Cuomo’s move means that those counties’ participation will end. The entire country is scheduled to join the program by 2013.

The practical effects of Mr. Cuomo’s decision are unclear. New York law enforcement agencies regularly check fingerprints with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Homeland Security officials said that regardless of New York’s participation in Secure Communities, the F.B.I. would still share fingerprints with the immigration agency.

Federal officials said that if states did not share fingerprints with the F.B.I., those states would lose access to federal criminal databases, undermining their ability to fight crime.

While Secure Communities has contributed to a sharp rise in deportations under President Obama, it does not appear to have won him many allies. It has angered immigrants who supported Democrats in recent elections. It has also failed to convince many of the president’s Republican opponents that he is sufficiently committed to enforcement.

Opponents of the program contend that even though it was mainly intended to ensnare convicted criminals and people deemed a security threat, it has instead caught too many immigrants charged with low-level crimes or guilty only of being in the country illegally. This pattern, the opponents argue, has driven immigrants deeper into the shadows and deterred them from helping officials fight crime.

In addition, critics have assailed the rollout of Secure Communities, which has been plagued by seemingly contradictory statements about how it works and whether local and state participation is voluntary.

Mylan L. Denerstein, counsel to Mr. Cuomo, cited these concerns in a letter on Wednesday.

“Until the numerous questions and controversies regarding the program can be resolved, we have determined that New York is best served by relying on existing tools to ensure the safety of its residents, especially given our overriding concern that the current mechanism is actually undermining law enforcement,” Ms. Denerstein wrote to John Sandweg, counsel to Janet Napolitano, the homeland security secretary.

Officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an arm of Homeland Security that oversees Secure Communities, said it was reviewing the program to make sure it focused on criminals.

Immigrant advocates praised Mr. Cuomo. “It is clear the tide is turning” against Secure Communities, said Pablo Alvarado, director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network in Los Angeles. “It’s high time for the president to terminate the program before any further damage is done to our communities.”

Chief Burbank Applauds Governor Cuomo’s Actions

Chris Burbank
Chief of Police
Salt Lake City Police Department

June 1, 2011
Public Information
For Immediate Release

(801) 799-NEWS
(801) 799-6397

Chief Burbank Applauds Governor Cuomo’s Actions

SALT LAKE CITY— Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank releases the following statement in support of Governor Cuomo’s action regarding the Secure Communities Program:

“I applaud Governor Cuomo’s move to suspend New York State’s participation in the Federal Secure Communities Program. The Secure Communities program combined with misguided state legislation has promoted a shift in local law enforcement’s mission across the country and driven a wedge between the police and the public. The resulting priority adjustment places emphasis upon civil immigration action over community policing and all criminal enforcement.

The conceit of the program is its intention to target serious criminal offenders.

Unfortunately, community members and traffic violators are often more significantly impacted than violent offenders. We in law enforcement must safeguard community trust. Without the support and participation of the neighborhoods in which we serve, we cannot provide adequate public safety and maintain the well-being of our nation. As Governor Cuomo appropriately asserts, the Secure Communities Program has not had its intended effect and we have experienced more negative consequences than positive.”