Secure Communities Program Makes Communities Less Secure

April 11, 2012 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Uncategorized 

Earlier today, the ACLU of Washington joined a number of allies in the
immigrant rights community, including El Comite Pro-Reforma Migratoria and CASA
Latina, at a press conference in opposition to the ever-expanding Secure
Communities (S Comm) program.  The press conference was a response to the
federal government’s move last week, with very little fanfare or publicity, to
activate the program for all counties in Washington.

Here’s why that’s bad news for every community in Washington.  While S
Comm is supposedly about protecting community safety, what it really does is the
opposite – increase local communities’ distrust of law enforcement, encourage
racial profiling, and undermine basic due process protections.  The program
operates by running every single person arrested in Washington through an
incomplete and error-ridden federal database – resulting in some people being
flagged, detained, and turned over to the feds even if they committed no crime.
Even worse, the feds are now forcing the program on all Washington counties with
no public process, and after a period of years during which local governments
had been assured that they didn’t have to opt into the program (only a
handful in the statechose to do so).
Throughout the ACLU’s work on police accountability, one issue that keeps
coming up over and over is the fact that the police cannot do their jobs without
the trust of the communities they serve.  But S Comm turns local cops into de
facto immigration agents, and this will now be true even if the local police
department themselves don’t want to be seen as such.  Immigrant communities and
communities of color, including many legal US citizens and permanent residents,
will now hesitate to work with the police, leading to less secure communities,
not more.
The program also invites racial profiling, as was documented in an excellent
report from a UC Berkeley Law professor, Aarti Kohli, last year.  As she points
out, S Comm operates at the pretrial level, meaning that an individual could be
detained and turned over to the feds even if he or she did not commit the crime
for which the arrest was supposedly made.  This gives law enforcement a perverse
incentive to make more stops of those whom the police believe are undocumented
(most likely Latinos), even if there is no basis for that belief, because the
individual could be detained whether or not they commited any crime.  We have
enough racial profiling already – let’s not open that door even wider.
And last year’s report and other data also show severe due process
deficiencies with the S Comm program, including lower representation rates,
lower rates of relief, and higher rates of detention for people coming through
the program, as opposed to those in the broader immigration system.  The real
kicker, though, is that a significant percentage of people snared by the program
have a US citizen spouse or child, meaning this program is also tearing American
families and communities apart.
It’s time to stop blowing our tax dollars on a program that can’t be fixed,
despite the piecemeal reforms the feds have periodically announced (another
round of changes will likely be announced shortly by the Department of Homeland
Security).  The truth is that the whole premise of S Comm – that local police
can enforce federal immigration laws – is fundamentally flawed.  It’s time to
stop the tinkering.  DHS and the feds need to end this program, not mend


One Response to “Secure Communities Program Makes Communities Less Secure”
  1. Secure Communities is not the first ICE program to result in racial profiling. A 2009 report by the Warren Institute showed increased racial profiling of Latinos with the implementation of the Criminal Alien Program (CAP). According to the report, after CAP was introduced to a local jail, police arrested Latinos for low-level offenses and minor traffic violations more frequently. Further, the Office of Inspector General, the internal watchdog of DHS, found in 2010 that the 287(g) program lacks oversight and protections against racial profiling and other civil rights abuses.

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