Report on Secure Communities Fuels Program’s Illegitimacy

Jill Garvey • Sep 20, 2011

The much-maligned Secure Communities program took more blows last week when a report by the Program’s task force to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was leaked. The task force describes itself as “a broad-based panel made up of local and state law enforcement and homeland security officials, attorneys with expertise in immigration practice and criminal law, labor union officials who represent federal immigration enforcement workers, academics, social service agency leaders, and others.”

At the same time the report was leaked, Task Force members began dropping like flies - choosing to resign rather than continue attaching their names to recommendations that identify serious problems with Secure Communities, but not enough serious solutions. The report goes so far as to note, Many Task Force members would go further, including recommending suspension of the program until major changes are made, or even recommending termination of what they believe is a fundamentally flawed program.”

Some of the major findings of the report included:

  • A lack of public support. Several states have already tried to opt out of the program - a move that prompted DHS to make that impossible.
  • Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) has long held that the program does not turn local law enforcement into immigration enforcement, but in reality it does. This was evident at the hearings held by the task force in several cities where hundreds of community members came out to protest the program and tell their stories.
  • ICE asserts that the program only targets violent criminals; it doesn’t. It targets all immigrants.
  • The program fosters public mistrust in law enforcement. This is the big one and the reason so many sheriffs and police chiefs have come out against the program. Any good law enforcement official knows that a community that doesn’t feel comfortable communicating with law enforcement is at risk for being victimized by more crime.

In fact, Arturo Venegas, a former California police chief, resigned from the task force last week because he said Secure Communities was “undermining public safety.”

Anti-immigrant groups have long endorsed Secure Communities precisely because of the havoc it wreaks on local communities.

At the end of the day, the only people advocating for ‘Secure’ Communities are bigots and bloated, poorly regulated government agencies. That’s bad for America and bad for democracy.

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