The process of opting out of the immigration enforcement program Secure Communities has been shrouded in secrecy and contradictory statements — most recently due to revelations that an opt-out process does not exist at all. In hopes of clarifying whether the program is mandatory, a coalition of immigrant rights groups filed an injunction today to get Immigration and Customs Enforcement to release documents related to removing communities from the program.
Several cities have voted to opt out of Secure Communities, which runs fingerprints collected for criminal background checks through a Department of Homeland Security program to check their immigration status. In Washington, San Francisco, Santa Clara, Calif., and Arlington, Va., officials agreed they would go through steps to be removed from the program under a system laid out by ICE. Even after DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano confirmed on Oct. 6 that an opt-out process does not exist, officials in some cities said they planned to move ahead with an opt-out. Officials in Arlington, San Francisco and Santa Clara will meet with ICE in the next few weeks.
The injunction filed by National Day Laborer Organization Network, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Immigration Justice Clinic of Cardozo Law would provide city officials with more information to deal with the process. The groups first filed a Freedom of Information Act request in February, but so far have not received some of the documents they requested about the opt-out process. They are now demanding that ICE hand over policy agreements, communications related to whether the program would be voluntary and records on how the FBI can filter the fingerprints to avoid sharing some with DHS, Hannah Weinstein of Cardozo Law told TWI.
“In spite of the widespread confusion about the opt-out process, ICE is moving full speed ahead, deploying S-Comm in cities and counties across the nation,” Bridget Kessler, a teaching fellow at Cardozo Law, said in a press release. “If information about opt-out is released years down the road, it will not do any good for local communities who need to understand the program and make decisions about it now.”
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