New York Governor David Paterson has just a few weeks left in office and pressure is growing for him to rescind the state’s agreement to participate in Secure Communities. The controversial program has yet to go into effect here. If it does, federal immigration agents will be able to monitor arrest data from every jail in the state. Thursday immigrants and their supporters rallied outside his midtown office and called for him to take action.
Dishonesty Is Not the Best Policy, Neither Is Secure Communities
by Pablo Alvarado
Director, National Day Laborer Organizing Network
Posted: November 24, 2010 07:45 AM
When the Director of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency’s “Secure Communities” program, David Venturella said, “Have we created some of the confusion out there? Absolutely we have,” at a speaking event last week, he showed that my first blog post here titled, “Democracies Don’t Govern in Secret,” was wrong. Not only does this democracy govern in secret, it also runs on lies.
How Secure Communities Works Venturella is in charge of the fastest spreading deportation program in the country. The Orwellian named “Secure Communities” program ropes local law enforcement into immigration by sharing fingerprints from anyone booked at a local jail with the federal immigration authorities. It currently operates in over 700 jurisdictions and is scheduled to be active nationwide by 2013.
Critics including the Sheriff of San Francisco and the Arlington, VA county board worry that the program undermines community-policing, incentivizes racial profiling, prevents victims of crimes from approaching police, and creates a burden on states who will be housing more detainees under the effort. However, across the board, even the agency itself agrees that it hasn’t been forthcoming with information or consistent with details.
The lack of information and continued mixed messages from the administration moved my organization, represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights and Cardozo School of Law to sue the agency for transparency under the Freedom of Information Act this past Spring.
On December 9th, we’ll be in front of a judge arguing for an emergency injunction to release documents related to local governments ability to choose not to participate in the program.
We feel its necessary because the program is being implemented at break-neck speed and in that haste, women like Maria Bolaños are being caught up in the system. Bolaños is a survivor of domestic violence whose call to the police for help resulted in deportation proceedings under the Secure Communities program.
She confronted Venturella, the director of the program trying to deport her, at a speech he gave in Washington. D.C. Instead of engaging Bolaños or responding to her request for her case to be dropped, Venturella ducked the issue and denied responsibility, saying that her case had nothing to do with Secure Communities, a fact that the Washington Post originally reported on and was reconfirmed by ICE within hours of Venturella’s response.
The Woodrow Wilson Center event was emblematic of ICE’s track record related to the program. In admitting responsibility for creating the confusion, Venturella was referring to the contradicting statements the agency’s made in the past. In September, ICE released a document called “Setting the Record Straight” where they stated, “ICE will discuss any issues… which may include removing the jurisdiction from the deployment plan.” Then in October, after Arlington, VA, San Francisco, and Santa Clara, CA took the opening as their cue to get out of the program, ICE claimed, “”We do not see this as an opt-in, opt-out program.”
However the “confusion” is not only in the past and at this point, is a euphemism for what the Washington Post calls “Reversals Sowing Mistrust.”
As if lying to a domestic violence survivor wasn’t bad enough Venturella’s other remarks painted a picture of a program wrought with more contradictions, gross mismanagement, and secrecy. Venturella opened the event saying, “The program that I oversee the locals do have the control of what information gets sent to us. We’re only going to respond to what is being provided to us.” But later added, “There was an impression created that local law enforcement could stop sending fingerprints to the federal government… That is not an option.” Only to then comment, “Under Secure Communities one of the responsibilities that the State Identification Bureau [is] to validate…unique identifiers. If they’re not going to do that then we can’t push that information to our system. So that’s the control that they have.”
Beyond the constant confusion about local governments’ ability to opt-out of the program, Venturella frustrated advocates when he revealed there is no official mechanism to receive complaints for cases similar to Bolaños, Demonstrating his own lack of knowledge of the program he directs, he referred any complaints to ICE’s civil rights department, a department that does not currently accept complaints generated from the Secure Communities program.
The back and forth, dishonesty, and revelations of mismanagement would move me to put an end to the program. But with thirteen states yet to join the program, numerous activated jurisdictions still trying to get out, and its current spokespeople unable or unwilling to set the record straight, isn’t it time for the courts to demand that they at least uncover the truth?
To model the transparency we believe ICE should have, you can watch the entire video at http://www.youtube.com/user/NDLONvideos#p/a/u/1/tO49b64FCUg
Follow Pablo Alvarado on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@ndlon
Domestic Violence Victim Confronts Director of “Secure Communities”
A Call for Help Led to Deportation Proceedings.
11.18.2010– Maria Bolanos, a domestic violence victim who’s call for help led to deportation proceedings, confronted David Venturella, director of the immigration enforcement program, “Secure Communities,” at today’s Woodrow Wilson Center panel discussion.
Bolanos demanded the program be ended and that her case be dropped immediately. “I do not want to be separated from my child. I am not a criminal. I ask that you terminate my case and all those under secure communities.” David Venturella refused to answer Maria’s petition and instead accused the Washington Post of inaccurate reporting. He refused to state whether the administration would stay her deportation.
Watch the dramatic video above or here: http://www.littleurl.net/0df8b3
Ms. Bolaños’ call for help resulted in her arrest when responding officers of Prince George’s County charged her with selling phone cards without a license. Though the charges were later dropped, Maria was placed into deportation proceedings through the ICE’s “Secure Communities” program. Her case and others like it highlight the dangers of the rapidly expanding federal program that matches fingerprints of those taken into police custody with the federal immigration database, creating a deportation dragnet of innocent people and victims like Maria.
ICE is forcing the program upon at least three counties that have voted to not participate in the program due to its secretive nature and evidence of its damage to community and police relations. Those counties (Santa Clara, CA, San Francisco, and Arlington, VA) cite examples like Bolanos as reason for opting out of participation.
Maria’s courageous step to keep her family together and fight her deportation remains to be answered by the Obama Administration. She was joined by dozens of protestors outside as well as representatives from the AFL-CIO, Legal Momentum and other groups fighting domestic violence, as well as CASA de Maryland and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network.
Posted by Deport Nation on Thursday, November 18, 2010.
There were several tense moments today when David Venturella, the assistant director of Secure Communities, addressed a room full of immigration advocates at the Woodrow Wilson Center.
“This is a tough topic,” Venturella said during his opening remarks. “I understand it elicits a lot of emotion.”
At one point, Maria Bolanos, a domestic violence victim who’s call for help led to deportation proceedings, confronted David Venturella.
“I called the police after a fight with my partner. I thought they would help me,” said Bolanos, through Ashwini Jaisingh, a translator and organizer with Casa De Maryland. “But through this the police turned me over to ICE, and now I have a deportation order.”
Bolanos has a 21-month old daughter and asked Venturella to dismiss her case immediately.
Venterella said he did not want to discuss the case publicly, but told Bolanos her case “was not a Secure Communities referral.”
Several attorneys in the room offered other examples of cases where their clients had been turned over to ICE after they were taken into police custody after domestic violence disputes.