DHS Expands Enforcement While Advocacy Groups Call for Changes
Tuesday, August 10, 2010 at 4:56 pm
On the heels of new information about the number of non-criminals deported by the Department of Homeland Security’s Secure Communities program, the agency announced today it has expanded the program to all 25 counties along the U.S.-Mexico border. Secure Communities requires local law enforcement to give fingerprints they collect to immigration officials, who can then begin removal proceedings.
But a coalition of immigration advocacy groups said that instead of touting its expansion, DHS should overhaul the program. The coaltion subpoenaed DHS for Secure Communities records, which showed that about one quarter of those deported under Secure Communities did not have criminal records. The records contradict stated DHS policies about prioritizing dangerous illegal immigrants, the groups said.
“ICE has blatantly misrepresented the program by saying it focuses on high-risk illegal immigrants,” Sarahi Uribe, an organizer with National Day Laborer’s Organizers Network, said on a conference call.
The records also showed troubling inconsistencies county to county, said Bridget Kessler, a clinical teaching fellow at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law’s Immigration Justice Clinic. Some counties had far higher rates of deportation of non-criminals than the national average, such as Travis County, Texas, where 80 percent of those deported were non-criminals, or Maricopa County, Ariz., where 54 percent were non-criminals.
In “sanctuary cities” such as San Francisco, the program forces the hand of local law enforcement, San Francisco Sheriff Mike Hennessey said on the call. San Francisco entered the Secure Communities June 8 after being told they could not opt out of the program, he said. “It appears it’s a program forced on local communities, whether or not it’s a program the community wants or cares about.”
ICE has not yet responded to requests for comment, but an ICE spokesman told the AP today Secure Communities is “a beneficial partnership tool for ICE and state and local law enforcement agencies helping to identify, prioritize and remove convicted criminal aliens.”
Update: ICE spokeswoman Gillian Brigham sent TWI the following statement:
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. To date, the program has identified more than 262,900 aliens 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, and led to the removal of over 34,600 convicted criminal aliens, including more than 9,800 convicted of major violent or drug offenses. DHS continues to monitor the program’s effectiveness and is committed to identifying and removing serious criminals.
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