By Randi Garcia Cruz
Things in Oregon are scary right now. The U.S. was completely divided when SB 1070 passed in Arizona. But what a lot of people don’t know is that the Obama Administration has started a similar program nationwide called Secure Communities that is in effect in many states; including multiple counties in Oregon.
The idea behind this program is simple- target criminals, and others who pose a threat to American security, that are in this country without papers. Where Secure Communities is active, police agencies are permitted to send fingerprints of booked suspects to ICE, where they are checked against the national immigration database. If it comes back that the person is undocumented, they will be held by the police department for up to 48 hours until ICE comes to detain them.
Say for example someone was pulled over for not using their turn signal and the police officer decides that this driver looks like they may not have papers, Secure Communities allows the officer to run their information through the ICE system. “Although ICE emphasizes Secure Communities’ race-neutral policies, opponents said that the program gives police a green light to arrest people they suspect of being undocumented…,” according to a recent Oregonian article.
The same article states that in just over a year, more than 600 people were deported and more than half of these people were convicted of minor crimes or NO crimes at all! And across the U.S. in 2010, over 392,862 people were deported, a majority for misdemeanors.
This program doesn’t support nor promote safety; it instigates fear and allows racial profiling to continue ‘legally.’ It tears families apart and sends people to the country of their parents, where they may have been born as a child, but where they have few connections or opportunities. We are talking about people who grew up in the U.S.; speaking English, attending public schools, and building a life here.
As a public school counselor in largely immigrant communities, I’ve seen first-hand the devastation that this law has inflicted on my students. They are living in constant fear for their safety and that of their families. If Obama really believes that the students of today are our future, he should end Secure Communities immediately. It’s a dangerous program that is tearing apart my state and yours.About the author: Randi Garcia Cruz lives in Portland Oregon and has been active politically, culturally, and on an educational level in the Latino community for many years. She is a school counselor who lives with her husband and many rescued animals.