ICE program should be reined in

ICE program should be reined in
Suzanne Foster and Carl Bergquist
Posted: 08/23/2010 06:39:30 PM PDT

The Obama administration and our local law enforcement agencies should not be contributing to the criminalization of entire communities of people, whether they be immigrants, Latinos/Latinas or anyone else (“Deportation plan draws fire,” Page A4, Aug. 11).

However, by wielding blunt tools like “Secure Communities” (S-Comm) and checkpoints, then playing loosey-goosey with terms like “criminal alien” and selectively highlighting data, our officials are aiding in further clouding the minds and boiling the blood of hateful people who in truth would benefit more from other kinds of help. And in the process, they are tearing apart families, sowing fear in the communities and taking away resources from ensuring real public safety.

In contrast to the overall claims of the article, to date in 2010 more non-criminals were identified specifically by S-Comm and subsequently detained and deported than in 2009. In other words, Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s newest program is bucking the trend, and it should thus be reined in rather than expanded.

Being in this country without authorization is a civil violation of the law, not a criminal one. So when our police and sheriffs arrest people and then using S-Comm – purportedly meant to target criminals and serious ones at that – wind up abetting the deportation of nearly 2,000 non-criminals in Los Angeles County (39percent of all deportations) or in San Bernardino 73percent (27 of 37 deportations), it is hard to claim that the program is prioritizing properly.

Furthermore, by using checkpoints to arrest people for driving without a license and then screening these arrestees via S-Comm, the collaboration between local law enforcement and ICE would seem in direct contradiction to the instructions that ICE’s John Morton set forth in a June 2010 memo. In it, he wrote, “ICE agents and officers should exercise particular discretion when dealing with minor traffic offenses such as driving without a license.” It is simply unacceptable that the “collateral damage” of supposed sobriety checkpoints and S-Comm are honorable community members conducting errands who are caught without a driver’s license they cannot get. With a program this dysfunctional, it is alarming that ICE is so determined to roll out S-Comm at breakneck speed across the country.

Suzanne Foster is executive director of the Pomona Economic Opportunity Center. Carl Bergquist is a policy advocate for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles.

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