Secure Communities: A Key Component of “Attrition Through Enforcement”

Domenic Powell • Mar 21, 2012

By mid-2011, the Obama Administration deported more people than Dwight D. Eisenhower under “Operation Wetback.” The Secure Communities (S-Comm) program is one of the administrative work horses making that dubious distinction possible. Grassroots activists, however, are fighting the program head on. More are demanding that the program come to an end.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) promotes the Secure Communities (S-Comm) program as an innocuous data-sharing program. In practice, it is a massive immigration dragnet that targets all immigrants irrespective of their legal status, and even ensnares citizens. At the end of last year, ICE wrongfully detained Los Angeles-born Antonio Montejano under S-Comm, and he isn’t alone.


ICE and the Department of Homeland Security insist that these programs are meant to aid the federal government in “priority” deportation targets. ICE boasted that 55% of deportees in fiscal year 2010 were “criminals,” the highest percentage in over a decade. A closer look at the figures, however, shows that nearly half of those deportees had been convicted of one or two misdemeanors. The number of people being deported for traffic violations alone has more than doubled since the Bush Administration.

Worse still is that the Department of Homeland Security is insisting that the program become mandatory nationwide next year. In the face of serious errors and serious affronts to civil liberties, DHS is planning on marching forward with a program that tears families apart and places a wall between immigrants and local law enforcement.

In Alabama, the state which felt the need to pass the nation’s harshest law against immigrants, all foreign-born residents (with and without status) combined only make up 3.5 percent of the population. Yet when the federal government promotes programs like S-Comm, it’s no wonder that states would also succumb to the nativist politics of invasion.

S-Comm is still “attrition through enforcement,” even though that label is more often associated with state-level bills like SB1070. It is still a key program in the War on Immigrants. S-Comm is still the primary means by which we conflate the criminal justice system and the immigration system. While there’s chatter in D.C. around mending the program’s admitted errors, it should instead be brought to an end.

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