Tag Archives: NDLON v ICE Released Docs

Immigrant advocates accuse ICE of "pattern of dishonesty" (San Francisco Bay Guardian)

Immigrant advocates accuse ICE of “pattern of dishonesty”

By sarah
Created 08/11/2010 – 3:26pm

A coalition of national civil rights organizations held a August 10 press conference to discuss recently released internal government documents that they say reveal “a pattern of dishonesty” regarding Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)  “Secure Communities” (S-Comm) program.

Representatives with the National Day Laborer Organization Network (NDLON), the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), and the Kathryn O. Greenberg Immigration Justice Clinic of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law noted that though ICE officials have declared their intention to expand S-Comm into every jurisdiction in the country by 2013, information about the program has been scarce, and development of its operational details has been shrouded in secrecy.

The coalition also pointed to a July 27 letter that U.S. Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren recently wrote to Secretary Janet Napolitano and Attorney General Eric Holder as evidence that ICE led Congress to believe that SecureComm is a voluntary, and not a mandatory, program.

In her letter, Lofgren, who is chair of the House of Representatives’ subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law,  asks for “a clear opt-out procedure for municipalities that do not wish to participate in the S-Comm program.”

“As we discussed, Secure Communities is a voluntary program that relies upon the resources of both of your agencies [referring to DHS and DOJ] in order to provide State, local, and federal law enforcement agencies with information related to the immigration status of persons booked into our nation’s jails and prisons,” Lofgren wrote.

“I am aware that some local law enforcement agencies have expressed concern that participating in Secure Communities will present a barrier to their community policing efforts and will make it more difficult for them to implement a law enforcement strategy that meets their community’s public safety needs,” Lofgren observed.

“There appears to be significant confusion about how local law enforcement agencies may ‘opt out’ of participating in Secure Communities,” Lofgren continued.

Lofgren notes that staff from her House subcommittee were briefed on this program by ICE and were informed that localities could opt out simply by making such a request to ICE, while subsequent conversations with ICE and FBI CJIS added  to the confusion by suggesting that this might not be so.

“Please provide me with a clear explanation of how local law enforcement agencies may pot out of Secure Communities by having the fingerprints they collect and submit to the SIBs checked against criminal, not immigration, databases,” Lofgren concludes.

To date, Lofgren has not received a reply, a press spokesperson in her office confirmed.

Immigration rights advocates charge that S-Comm, which is operative in 544 jurisdictions in 27 states, functions like the controversial 287(g) program and Arizona’s SB1070, making state and local police central to the enforcement of federal immigration law.

They say the program, which automatically runs fingerprints through immigration databases for all people arrested, targets them for detention and deportation even if their criminal charges are minor, eventually dismissed, or the result of an unlawful arrest.

After reviewing the recently released ICE documents and other information, advocates for NDLON said they found evidence supporting their claim that ICE has been dishonest with the public and with local law enforcement regarding S-Comm’s true mission and impact.

“While ICE markets S-Comm as an efficient, narrowly tailored tool that targets ‘high threat’ immigrants, it actually functions as a dragnet for funneling people into the mismanaged ICE detention and removal system,” stated a NDLON press release. “ICE’s own records show that the vast majority (79 percent) of people deported due to S-Comm are not criminals or were picked up for lower level offenses.”

They also charge that the program serves as a smokescreen for racial profiling, allowing police officers to stop people based solely on their appearance and arrest non-citizens, knowing that they will be deported, even if they were wrongfully arrested and are never convicted.

“Preliminary data confirms that some jurisdictions, such as Maricopa County Arizona, have abnormally high rates of non-criminal S-Comm deportations,” NDLON continued.

“Lastly, the impression ICE fosters that S-Comm is not mandatory and jurisdictions can opt out is riddled with questions,” they conclude.

“These records reveal a dangerous trend,” said NDLON Executive Director Pablo Alvarado. “This program creates an explosion of Arizona-like enforcement at a time when the results have proven disastrous. Thanks to S-Comm, we face the potential proliferation of racial profiling, distrust of local police, fear, and xenophobia to every zip code in America.”

“S-Comm co-opts local police departments to do ICE’s dirty work at significant cost to community relations and police objectives,” said CCR attorney Sunita Patel. “Without full and truthful information about the program’s actual mission and impact, police are operating in the dark. The bottom line is that thrusting police into the business of federal immigration enforcement isn’t good for anyone.”

“ICE is racing forward imposing its S-Comm program on new states and localities every day, without any meaningful dialog or public debate,” warned Bridget Kessler, a teaching fellow at the Immigration Justice Clinic of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.

The three organizations vow to litigate for the release of more data and records “to uncover the truth behind S-Comm and other ICE efforts to draft local police into immigration enforcement.”

Also speaking at the Aug. 10 press conference was San Francisco Sheriff Mike Hennessey. Earlier this summer, Hennessey blew the whistle on S-COmm, after attending a meeting in May at which ICE revealed it was going to switch the program on in San Francisco in June.

But despite Hennessey’s efforts to opt San Francisco out of the program, S-Comm went live June 8 in San Francisco.

“We were told we could opt out through the State Attorney General’s Office,” Hennessey said, recalling how AG Jerry Brown’s office told him that San Francisco could only opt out through the feds.

“We were given the run around,” Hennessey said.“It’s a program forced upon individual local law enforcement agencies, no matter what the local community wants,” Hennessey said.

Henessey worries that the program is having a chilling effect on community policy efforts.

“Witnesses and victims of crime won’t come forward for fear they will be deported,” he said.

Henessey notes that ICE has detained folks who were arrested for minor traffic violations, and whose charges were subsequently dropped, as well as folks with no criminal records.

“My Board of Supervisors, my Police Commission and my mayor have said they would rather not participate in deportations at that level,” Hennessey noted.

He worries that the program could be expanded to include employment record checks.

“They say the program won’t be used for civil purposes, but it’s already being used for federal employment checks,” Hennessey said. “This further isolates minority communities from the mainstream.”

Few deported aliens have serious criminal records, activists say (Miami Herald)

Few deported aliens have serious criminal records, activists say

BY ALFONSO CHARDY

achardy@ElNuevoHerald.com

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has touted an 18-month-old program under which county jails forward suspects’ fingerprints to Homeland Security as a key tool in quickly identifying dangerous foreign criminals.

But internal ICE documents released Tuesday by immigrant and civil rights activists contradict the agency’s claim, according to an analysis of the documents by the advocates which include the respected Center for Constitutional Rights and the immigration justice clinic at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, both in New York City.

Release of the documents is the latest salvo by immigrant rights advocates who believe ICE has become a rogue agency bent on undermining civil rights and President Obama’s stated policy of focusing on dangerous foreign criminals first. The documents outline the work of the ICE booking center program known as Secure Communities.

Suspects booked at a county jail linked to the program have their fingeprints shared with several agencies including Homeland Security. If ICE, a Homeland Security agency, is interested in one of the foreign suspects, it lodges an immigration “detainer” or hold so the suspect cannot be immediately released. Before Secure Communities, immigration authorities relied on jail officials to alert them about foreign nationals in local jails or periodically checked local jail records themselves.

ICE says Secure Communities assists the agency in quickly identifying dangerous foreign criminals so they can be placed in deportation proceedings before being released on bail or their own recognizance.

The agency did not dispute the activists’s findings. But ICE reiterated its belief that Secure Communities is crucial to shielding U.S. communities from dangerous foreign criminals.

“Secure Communities gives ICE the ability to work with our state and local law enforcement partners to identify criminal aliens who are already in their custody, expediting their removal and keeping our communities safer, part of the Department’s overall focus on identifying and removing convicted criminal aliens who pose a threat to public safety,” said ICE spokesman Temple Black.

To date, he added, the program has identified more than 262,900 foreign nationals in jails and prisons who have been charged with or convicted of criminal offenses, including more than 39,000 charged with or convicted of major violent or drug offenses. Black said the program led to the deportation of more than 34,600 convicted criminal foreigners, including more than 9,800 convicted of major violent or drug offenses.

The analysis of the documents by the activists, however, says that the majority or 79 percent of people deported in connection to Secure Communities were non-criminals or had been picked up by local police for relatively minor offenses including traffic violations or petty juvenile mischief.

Among participants in a conference call for journalists to brief them on the documents, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, was Jonathan Fried, executive director of the Homestead immigrant rights group WeCount!. He told the story of a young immigrant woman from Latin America deported after being booked at a Miami-Dade County jail. Fried believes ICE learned of the woman’s undocumented status because of Secure Communitiues even though she had no criminal record.

“An example is the mother of two beautiful young U.S. citizen children who was deported last year,” said Fried. “She was stopped by a… police officer returning from taking her children to school and charged with no valid driver license. As a result of Secure Communities, an immigration hold was placed on her and she was deported, leaving her two young children, without their mother, in the care of relatives.”

The activists’s analysis also contained a county-by-county breakdown on the number of foreign nationals identified through Secure Communities and subsequently deported.

Four counties in Florida — Miami-Dade, Broward, St. Lucie and Hillsborough — are among counties nationwide with the highest number of immigrants with no criminal backgrounds deported due to Secure Communities since the program began, the analysis said.

Sixty six percent of immigrants deported due to Secure Communities in Miami-Dade were non criminals, according to the analysis. In Hilsborough, the rate was also 66 percent while in Broward, it was 71 percent and St. Lucie 79 percent.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Tuesday that her intention is to deploy Secure Communities in all “law enforcement jurisdictions” in the country by 2013.

Napolitano spoke as she announced that Secure Communities has just been deployed to all 25 U.S. counties along the Southwest border.

She added that Secure Communities has grown from only 14 jurisdictions at the beginning to 544 today. ICE announced June 29 that all 67 counties in Florida are now linked to Secure Communities.

Illegal Immigration: Santa Clara County Wades into Debate on Fingerprinting Program (Mercury News)

Illegal immigration: Santa Clara County board wades into debate on federal fingerprinting program

By Tracy Seipel
tseipel@mercurynews.com
Posted: 08/10/2010 07:22:23 PM PDT
Updated: 08/10/2010 10:22:58 PM PDT

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday waded into a growing debate about a federal program that seeks to enlist local law enforcement in the war on illegal immigration.

With about a dozen activists pleading for the county to opt out of the Secure Communities program, the board voted unanimously to ask the county counsel’s office if the county is obliged to participate.

The program, which launched last year and is being phased in across Northern California this summer, gives federal officials access to the fingerprints of people arrested locally.

Federal officials reported Monday that 47,000 immigrants — three-fourths of whom had criminal records — have been deported since Homeland Security began sifting through fingerprints from local jails.

Critics say the program focuses too much on low-level criminals and people who simply failed to show up for deportation hearings. They also allege the program does not protect against racial profiling and makes people fearful of reporting crimes.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty about the obligations and impacts on us,” said Supervisor George Shirakawa, who drafted a memo seeking guidance on whether the program “is consistent with (the) county’s priorities.”

The answers — and any options — are expected to be delivered to the board’s Public Safety and Justice Committee on Sept. 1. The board could hand down a decision later that month.

Other Bay Area counties
are struggling with the issue, too. Santa Cruz County was scheduled to adopt the program Tuesday. San Mateo County officials already have signed up, saying they had no choice.

And when San Francisco’s sheriff asked the state Attorney General’s Office to let that city and county opt out of the program, Attorney General Jerry Brown said no.

“The Secure Communities program is up and running in 169 counties in 20 states,” Brown wrote in May. “This program serves both public safety and the interest of justice.”

A spokeswoman for Brown on Tuesday said that while his office would review any similar request Santa Clara County might make, “As far as we know, no county in America has opted out of the program.”

Nevertheless, activists for the county’s immigrant communities implored supervisors not to take part in the program.

“We should continue to be a country that cherishes and accepts immigrants,” said Samina Sundas, speaking on behalf of the group American Muslim Voice.

Shirakawa’s office said Tuesday that more than 600,000 immigrants live in Santa Clara County, giving it the state’s highest percentage of foreign-born residents.

While the county so far has resisted any formal commitment to the program, it already plays a role in it. That’s because when someone is arrested and taken to the county jail, his or her fingerprints are sent to an identification system that is ultimately downloaded to the California Department of Justice. That state agency, in turn, has an agreement with the federal government to share the information.

“We have attempted not to cooperate or be involved in this issue,” said Gary Graves, the county’s chief operating officer. “We have not agreed to opt in or out.”

Also Tuesday, the board unanimously voted to explore an ordinance that would require pit bull-type dogs in unincorporated areas of the county be spayed or neutered. The proposal, by Supervisor Ken Yeager, comes after a 2-year-old boy was fatally mauled last month by three pit bulls in the East Bay.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact Tracy Seipel at 408 275-0140.

Travis County Leads Nation in Deportation of Non-criminals via Fed. Fingerprinting (Austin Market Examiner)

Travis County leads nation in deportation of non-criminals through federal fingerprinting program

August 10, 5:13 PM · John Egan – Austin Market Examiner

Travis County, Texas, so far has deported a higher percentage of non-criminals than any county in the federal government’s new Secure Communities project. The controversial program, launched in 2008, automatically checks fingerprint records of jail and prison inmates to see whether they’re in the United States illegally.

In Travis County, 82 percent of 724 total deportations under the Secure Communities program were of non-criminals, according to an analysis of federal data collected by a coalition of immigration advocacy groups. The Travis County data covers June 2009, when the county joined the program, through April 2010.

“This indicates police officers are picking up people on pretext, the criminal charges are getting dropped or dismissed, and they’re getting shuttled into deportation,” Bridget Kessler, clinical teaching fellow at the Immigration Justice Clinic of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, told reporters.

The clinic along with the National Day Laborer Organization Network and the Center for Constitutional Rights filed suit to obtain the federal data.

Nationwide, an average of 26 percent of all Secure Communities deportations were of non-criminals, the groups’ analysis of 2008-10 data shows. County-by-county data released by the federal government stretched from November 2008 through April 2010; the tally comprised more than 160 counties in 19 states.

In all, nearly 47,000 people identified through Secure Communities in the than 160 counties were deported from the United States, documents gathered by the advocacy groups indicate. Of those, nearly 12,300 were deemed non-criminals and more than 9,800 were tagged as having committed the most serious crimes.

Richard Rocha, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spokesman, told The Associated Press that non-criminals may be people who failed to show up for deportation hearings, who recently crossed the border illegally or who re-entered the country after deportation.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has expanded the Secure Communities initiative to 27 states. By 2013, the Secure Communities program is expected to be rolled out nationwide.

“Secure Communities gives ICE the ability to work with our state and local law enforcement partners to identify criminal aliens who are already in their custody, expediting their removal and keeping our communities safer,” Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said.

Secure Communities enables digital fingerprints obtained during the booking process to be checked against FBI criminal records and Homeland Security immigration records. By identifying any immigration record matches in jails and prisons, ICE can swiftly start deportation proceedings.

“The Secure Communities initiative reflects ICE’s ongoing commitment to smart, tough enforcement strategies that help ensure the apprehension of dangerous criminal aliens,” ICE Director John Morton said. “Expediting removals decreases the amount of time these individuals spend in ICE custody—saving taxpayers money and strengthening public safety.”

Immigration advocates complain that Secure Communities funnels people into the “mismanaged” ICE detention and deportation system, and serves as a “smokescreen” for racial profiling.

Pablo Alvarado, executive director of the National Day Laborer Organization Network, said: “This program creates an explosion of Arizona-like enforcement at a time when the results have proven disastrous.”

Center for Constitutional Rights attorney Sunita Patel added that Secure Communities “co-opts local police departments to do ICE’s dirty work at significant cost to community relations and police objectives.”

“Without full and truthful information about the program’s actual mission and impact, police are operating in the dark,” Patel said. “The bottom line is that thrusting police into the business of federal immigration enforcement isn’t good for anyone.”

Travis County Leads Nation in Deporting 'Noncriminal' Immigrants (American Statesman)

Travis County leads nation in deporting ‘noncriminal’ immigrants, groups find

Sheriff said he questions findings but will look into whether conclusions drawn from compiled data are accurate.
By Tony Plohetski
AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF

Updated: 12:39 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2010

Published: 10:35 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2010

Undocumented immigrants with no criminal histories are being deported from Travis County at a higher percentage than any other county in the United States, according to government statistics obtained and analyzed by several advocacy groups.

According to the groups, 82 percent of deportations of jail inmates through a federal fingerprint-sharing program in Travis County were of “noncriminals,” such as those with no violent histories.

The statistics were compiled by officials for national advocacy groups, including the Center for Constitutional Rights, which obtained raw data through a federal freedom of information request to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Travis County Sheriff Greg Hamilton, alerted to the statistics Tuesday, said he questions what the numbers show.

“We are going to have to do some looking into this,” Hamilton said. “I think those numbers are skewed, but we will find out.”

The expulsions have happened in recent months as federal agents nationally began reviewing fingerprints of inmates booked into county jails through a database-sharing program called Secure Communities. Federal officials have said the program helps identify and prioritize criminal immigrants who threaten public safety.

However, immigration advocates said the number of deportations of Travis County inmates highlights a problem with the program: People with no criminal histories are being removed.

“Secure Communities is marketed as a program that has as its mission targeting the worst of the worst – the most dangerous criminals most likely to present a danger to their communities,” said Bridget Kessler , clinical teaching fellow at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University in New York , who was involved in the effort to compile the numbers. “So 82 percent doesn’t seem to represent the mission of the program at all.”

Critics said the program is similar to the Arizona law that makes local police and sheriffs central to enforcing immigration laws.

Federal officials said Tuesday that Secure Communities is in place in all 25 counties along the U.S.-Mexico border; the Obama administration wants it operational nationally by 2013.

According to statistics from October 2008 through June of this year, 46,929 people identified through Secure Communities were removed from the country. Of those, 12,293 were considered noncriminals.

California had the highest percentage of immigrants deported who had carried out serious crimes. In Georgia, 39 percent of 624 immigrants removed were noncriminals, the highest among all states, statistics showed.

Travis County led all counties with the highest percentage of deported noncriminals, the advocacy groups reported.

Sheriff’s spokesman Roger Wade said the department has a policy of not talking to inmates, suspects or crime victims about their immigration status. He said if inmates are targeted by federal officials because of immigration, officials release them to various agencies, including ICE, when they are ordered by a judge.

On Tuesday, several Austin immigration advocates said they were not surprised by the Travis County statistics.

Thomas Esparza Jr., an Austin immigration lawyer who opposes the program, said, “What we told the county commissioners is that this was going to sweep the wheat up with the chaff, and that’s obviously what’s happened here. They’re very efficient here in Travis County. Everybody gets a hold put on them.”

Nicole True, an Austin criminal defense and immigration attorney, said the program unfairly targets immigrants accused of minor, nonviolent offenses and makes Austin immigrants less likely to report crimes.

“It would make more sense if immigration (enforcement) focused on violent felonies … where most people in the community would agree that that’s a dangerous person,” True said. The program “breaks apart a lot of families and creates a lot of fear.”

tplohetski@statesman.com; 445-3605

Additional material from staff writer Jeremy Schwartz and The Associated Pres