Category Archives: Press (New York)

NDLON: Tide Turning Against Discredited “Secure Communities” Jail Deportation Program (PR)

For Immediate Release

Date:  June 1, 2011
Contact: B. Loewe, NDLON, 773.791.4668

Tide Turning Against Discredited “Secure Communities” Jail Deportation Program; New York Governor Cuomo Joins Growing Chorus Calling for Moratorium

The following is a statement of Pablo Alvarado,  Director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, in reaction to Governor Cuomo’s recent announcement to suspend New York’s participation in the S-COMM program:

“New York joins a growing chorus of state opposition to an ill-conceived, dangerous, and dishonestly-executed program.  The more local law enforcement and elected officials learn about SCOMM, the more they have have opposed it.

“It makes sense that New York is heading in the opposite direction of Arizona.  Unlike Arizona, New York’s elected officials are proud of the state’s immigrant heritage, and there is zero tolerance for programs that imperil the civil rights of communities of color.

“SCOMM not only diminishes community safety, erodes civil rights, and undermines our shared goal of advancing meaningful federal immigration reform-  questions are now being raised about Department of Homeland Security’s legal authority to commandeer state resources in an unwise effort to ramp up its deportation numbers.

“It is clear the tide turning on SCOMM, and it’s high time for the President to terminate the program before any further damage is done to our communities.  At a minimum, we hope the President will honor the request of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and freeze the program immediately.”


Secure Communities (S-Comm) was originally sold to Congress and state officials as a program to identify and deport individuals who had been convicted of serious, violent crimes.  This relatively uncontroversial proposition at first received little attention.  But it quickly became clear that S-Comm was not what ICE represented it to be.

Through FOIA litigation, ICE was forced to admit that about 30% of those deported through S-Comm have absolutely no criminal convictions.  Another 30% have only minor misdemeanor offenses.
See the latest statistics at

States and localities that had agreed to participate in S-Comm based on ICE’s representations of the program have rebelled upon discovering its broad sweep, based on concerns about the effect S-Comm could have on community policing, civil rights, resource diversion, and other concerns.  See Illinois Gov Quinn letter terminating state participation; congresspeople letter to NYS.  (available  upon request).

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus has called for a moratorium on the program, expressing concern that ”Secure Communities” is actually making immigrant communities and communities of color less secure.   See

And ICE’s behavior in unrolling S-Comm is now the subject of an OIG investigation.  As documented in a letter from Congresswoman Lofgren, the agency’s communications about S-Comm to Congressmembers and state and local officials were filled with lies and misrepresentations.  See



For Immediate Release: June 1, 2011


Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that New York State will suspend participation in the federal Secure Communities Program to review the mounting evidence that the program is not meeting its stated goal and has serious consequences for witnesses, victims of crime and law enforcement.

The goal as stated by the federal government was to deport serious felons, and, based on evidence to date, it appears the program in New York is failing in this regard and is actually undermining law enforcement. Because of similar concerns, the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is investigating the program.

“There are concerns about the implementation of the program as well as its impact on families, immigrant communities and law enforcement in New York,” Governor Cuomo said. “As a result, New York is suspending its participation in the program.”

In a letter to DHS, Governor Cuomo’s administration stated that information produced thus far has called into question – at both the federal and state levels – the implementation and intended effect of the Secure Communities program.

Governor Cuomo’s office has also received complaints stating that the goals of the program were not being met. The questions raised are further aggravated by inconsistent statements by DHS and a failure to disclose basic information about the program.

Congressman Jose E. Serrano said, “Governor Cuomo has taken a brave and necessary step in suspending New York State’s participation in the flawed ‘Secure Communities’ program, and he deserves great praise. He is firmly in line with our state’s pro-immigrant tradition and on behalf of the immigrants and their friends in our community, I would like to thank him. Having New York State pull back from this unfair and aggressive program should be a wake-up call to the Department of Homeland Security. It is time to end this program and I am glad my home state will no longer take part.”

Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez said, “I thank Governor Cuomo for showing the leadership and foresight to suspend this misguided program, which does not reflect New York’s long history as a welcoming home for newly arrived immigrants. The Secure Communities initiative does not make our nation safer, but inhibits cooperation with law enforcement and violates immigrants’ due process rights.”

Derek P. Champagne, Franklin County District Attorney and President of the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York (DAASNY), said, “By suspending the state’s participation in this program until a comprehensive review is complete, the Governor is sending a strong message that the law enforcement tools we utilize must be clearly communicated, evenly applied and effective. We will continue to use the effective tools that have been in place for many years to ensure that we are identifying and preventing any risk to public safety.”

Janet DiFiore, Westchester County District Attorney, said, “I support Governor Cuomo’s decision to take New York State out of the Secure Communities Program in light of reports of the unintended consequences by its implementation. I remain confident that law enforcement throughout the state presently has sufficient tools at its disposal to continue to safeguard and protect all New Yorkers.”

State Senator Adriano Espaillat, Chair of the Latino Caucus of the Senate, said, “Governor Cuomo’s decision to end the so-called Secure Communities program in New York will restore rights and justice to countless immigrants across the state. We must enact policies and reforms that bolster our diverse population, not penalize it by instilling a sense of fear of wrongful deportation in our neighborhoods.”

State Senator Gustavo Rivera, Vice Chair of the Latino Caucus of the Senate, said, “I applaud Governor Cuomo for having the courage to put an end to this program’s existence in New York. The Secure Communities program has frightened victims and witnesses of crime from coming forward. We need to make our neighborhoods safe places for our families and not take part in a problematic and contradictory program that hinders our safety.”

Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, Chair of the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force, said, “The Secure Communities program has done the opposite of what it was supposed to do, and Governor Cuomo is right in removing our state from the program. While we continue to work to find ways to make it safer for victims and witnesses of crime to come forward and be a part of the process to save our communities, we must not let our state be part of an experiment that puts innocent people at risk.”

Thomas H. Mungeer, President of the New York State Police Benevolent Association, said, “We support Governor Cuomo’s action today in suspending Secure Communities until the numerous questions, including a federal Inspector General’s investigation, can be resolved. Police rely upon a partnership with the communities that they serve to ensure the public safety of us all. The questions that have surrounded the implementation of Secure Communities drives a wedge between law enforcement and the people they are sworn to protect. We are confident that the procedures we currently use and the strong relationships we currently have with federal, state and local authorities will ensure that we can keep our communities safe while also maintaining our relationship of trust.”

John Poklemba, Counsel to the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police, said, “Governor Cuomo has made the right decision to take New York State out of the controversial Secure Communities program. This program unfortunately has had a negative impact on our crime-fighting efforts. Law enforcement must have tools and resources that are both effective and fair.”

Jack Mahar, Sheriff of Rensselaer County and President of the New York State Sheriffs Association, said, “Every day, law enforcement officers put their lives on the line to rid our neighborhoods of crime, and we do it with the cooperation of the law-abiding public. This program was intended to make communities safer and stronger, but many people question whether this program has really accomplished its objectives. Governor Cuomo is right to remove our state from this program until all concerns are addressed.”

Clinton County Sheriff David Favro said, “Governor Cuomo’s decision to freeze the Secure Communities program until the questions that have been raised about its implementation can be settled, is a wise one. While we are sworn to keep our communities safe, that cannot come at the price of their trust. Our strong current partnerships with federal law enforcement and long-standing operations in this state will ensure that we continue to communicate effectively to identify undocumented immigrants in our county jails and take appropriate actions.”

Chautauqua County Sheriff Joseph Gerace said, “We support Governor Cuomo’s action today in suspending Secure Communities until the numerous questions, including a federal Inspector General’s investigation, can be resolved. Sheriff departments rely upon a partnership with the communities that they serve to ensure public safety for us all. The questions that have surrounded the implementation of Secure Communities jeopardizes that relationship. We are confident that the procedures we currently use and the strong relationship we currently have with federal, state and local authorities will ensure that we can keep our communities safe while also maintaining our relationship of trust.”

Steven Krokoff, Chief of the Albany Police Department said, “In light of the confusion surrounding this program and the pending Inspector General’s review, the Governor’s decision to freeze this program until the federal review is complete is appropriate. The procedures we currently use will ensure the safety of neighborhoods across the state while at the same time encouraging individuals in all communities to come forward to report crimes.”

Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said, “We applaud Governor Cuomo for taking the bold step of removing New York State from the Secure Communities initiative, which, despite its name, has become a sore subject for those who work day and night to make our neighborhoods safer. We need to ensure that vulnerable populations are protected, and the decision to remove our state from this program is a positive move for all New Yorkers.”

Chung-Wha Hong, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition, said, “For centuries, families have gone to great lengths to come to this great nation, and we owe it to ourselves and our neighbors to make sure the law is on their side. Unfortunately, the Secure Communities program has failed to provide protections to many individuals. Governor Cuomo’s decision to remove New York from the program is a right one, and we look forward to working with him to make our state safe for all residents.”

A copy of the letter sent to DHS can be found at:

AILA Letter to Gov. Cuomo

Dear Governor Cuomo,

On behalf of the New York Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Assocaition (AILA), we are writing to urge you to rescind the Memorandum of Agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) implemtning Secure Communities. Rather than participate in an ill-conceived program that tears families apart, puts public safety at risk and destroys cherished civil liberties, New York should reaffirm its commitment to immigrants by immediately ending its cooperation with ICE.

Read the full letter here. (PDF)

New Yorkers call on Cuomo to back out of immigrant fingerprint-sharing program 'Secure Communities'

New Yorkers call on Cuomo to back out of immigrant fingerprint-sharing program ‘Secure Communities’
BY Erica Pearson
Wednesday, May 11th 2011, 5:43 PM

New Yorkers are stepping up pressure on Gov. Cuomo to back out of a controversial immigrant fingerprint-sharing program – just like the Illinois governor.

States who take part in the program called Secure Communities automatically sends to Homeland Security the fingerprints of everyone who is booked.

The feds say they are trying to find and deport dangerous criminals – but opponents say the program sweeps up immigrants charged with low-level offenses and even domestic-violence victims.

“The time is now for Gov. Cuomo to take a stance,” said Sunita Patel, staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights.

“Individuals who have been victims of domestic violence have been deported because of Secure Communities,” said Patel.

She pointed to the case of Maria Bolanos, a Salvadoran immigrant in Maryland, who called police after a fight with her husband. The subsequent fingerprint check landed her in deportation proceedings.

A dozen religious leaders held a vigil outside Cuomo’s office Wednesday urging him to follow Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn’s lead and yank New York out of the program.

“As a minister, I’m incredibly angered and saddened,” said Susan Switzer of Riverside Church. “Secure Communities is a misnomer.”

Earlier this week, 38 state lawmakers sent a letter to Cuomo calling on him to quit the program.

A Cuomo spokesman said the administration is reviewing the program, which has been rolled out in 24 New York counties but is not yet active in any of the five boroughs.

New Call in Albany to Quit U.S. Immigration Program (NYT)

New Call in Albany to Quit U.S. Immigration Program
Published: May 9, 2011

A group of 38 state lawmakers sent a letter to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Monday urging him to remove New York from a national program that has been a cornerstone of the Obama administration’s immigration enforcement efforts.

The letter comes about two months after another group of elected officials in the state, including 19 New York City Council members, sent a similar letter to Mr. Cuomo — part of a growing national chorus of hostility to the enforcement initiative, which has begun in most states and in some New York counties.

Under the program, called Secure Communities, the fingerprints of everyone booked into a local or county jail are automatically sent to the Department of Homeland Security and compared with prints in the agency’s databases. If officials discover that a suspect is in the country illegally, or is a noncitizen immigrant with a criminal record, they may seek to deport the person.

Last week, Gov. Pat Quinn of Illinois said he was pulling his state out of the program; it was the first time a state had sought to withdraw entirely. Mr. Quinn and other opponents complain that Secure Communities has strayed from its stated goal of ensnaring convicted criminals, particularly those found guilty of the most serious offenses, and that it is instead sweeping up many immigrants charged with low-level crimes or guilty only of being in the country illegally.

In their letter, the New York legislators applauded Mr. Quinn’s action, adding, “Given New York’s immigrant heritage and our leadership role in the nation, we firmly believe that our state, too, must immediately end this destructive program.”

A spokesman for Mr. Cuomo said on Monday that the governor and his staff were still reviewing the program.

The Bush administration began Secure Communities in 2008, intending to have it fully in place around the country by 2013. In May 2010, Gov. David A. Paterson signed agreements to cooperate, and by Monday, 24 of the 62 counties in New York had been added to the program. They include Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, Orange and Dutchess Counties. They do not include New York City’s five boroughs.The new data-sharing system has contributed to a surge in deportations. Opponents worry that it could deter illegal immigrants from coming forward as witnesses to help law enforcement officers fight crime.

In March, a group of lawyers and immigrant advocates analyzed data from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an arm of the Department of Homeland Security, and concluded that about one in four people deported under Secure Communities had not been convicted of a crime. In some jurisdictions, more than half of deportees were not convicted criminals, the advocates said.

New York’s counties began joining the system on Jan. 11. Through the end of February, about 80 percent of the immigrants detained as a result of Secure Communities had no criminal record, advocates said.

While Obama administration officials have said that states can technically opt out of the program, refusal to participate would be costly. Federal officials have warned that any state that declines to share fingerprints through the program will lose access to the criminal databases of other states and the federal government, seriously hampering crime-fighting efforts.