MLFA Joins Over 200 Organizations in Letter to ICE
Morton Misses the Mark: In Letter to ICE, over 200 groups Say S-Comm Task Force Reveals DHS Not Serious About Reform
(2011-07-21) Today, in a letter to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton, over 200 civil rights organization, law enforcement officials, and faith leaders from across the country joined together to denounce the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) newly-established task force on Secure Communities.
In the wake of mounting criticism against Secure Communities’ implementation, negative impact on community policing, and the civil and human rights violations caused by the program, on June 17th, DHS convened a task force comprised of law enforcement officials, ICE agents, and immigrant rights advocates. The Advisory Committee was established without public input and does not include immigrant community members. The task force’s scope is limited to recommendations about minor traffic offenses, prompting criticism from law enforcement officials and civil rights groups that the task force’s limited scope is not sufficient to address the well-documented problems with the program; they are now calling for an immediate halt to Secure Communities.
Secure Communities contributed to the record number of detentions and deportations in 2010. Despite ICE’s claim that the program is designed to keep communities safe, the program has instead served as nothing more than a tool for meeting ICE’s deportation goals, sweeping some 400,000 immigrants into deportation proceedings per year–regardless of whether they are guilty or innocent, how serious their criminal history is, how long ago their criminal charges occurred, what kind of rehabilitation they have demonstrated, or what ties they have to the community.
According to the groups, “by relying on local police to enforce immigration laws against the very communities they are charged with protecting, Secure Communities is sending a clear message to members of the immigrant community that any contact with the police could lead to their deportation.” As the letter points out, with the vast majority of undocumented battered women—more than 80%--already reluctant to report their abuse to police for fear of detention and deportation, S-Comm and similar programs make it even less likely that immigrant witnesses and victims will come forward.
"Law enforcement agencies routinely talk of the need for more cooperation in combating crime and terrorism, but immigrants are far less likely to step forward when doing so could result in broken-up families, lengthy detentions and deportation," said Khalil Meek, Executive Director of the Muslim Legal Fund of America, a charitable legal fund that supports legal cases impacting civil rights and liberties in America. "We've found that many immigration applications from people with Muslim-sounding names suffer unusual delays in processing, forcing otherwise legal residents out of status from no fault of their own. These are patriotic, freedom-loving people and should not face removal from the society that they love and want to protect."
There is also growing evidence that ICE intentionally misled government officials as to the voluntary nature of the program. Earlier this month, a federal judge in the FOIA litigation rejected ICE’s efforts to withhold documents that would reveal information about Secure Communities, concluding that “[t]here is ample evidence that ICE and DHS have gone out of their way to mislead the public about Secure Communities.”
According to documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against ICE by the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Cardozo School of Law, and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, ICE adopted an intentionally misleading definition of “voluntary” and “opt out” in order to expand implementation of the program before the expected pushback from localities.
Citing concerns over conflicting reports from ICE about whether the program was mandatory, the program’s impact on victims and witnesses of crime, and ICE’s failure to meet its stated goals in implementing the program, governors from Illinois, New York, and Massachusetts have rejected the program, while the District of Columbia, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Washington have altogether refused to join. Los Angeles, San Francisco and Santa Clara, CA, and Arlington, VA, have all passed local resolutions seeking to opt out or supporting localities to opt out. The California legislature is also considering the TRUST Act, which would allow counties throughout the state to opt out of the program. Although the program’s continued use is not authorized by these states and localities, DHS stated in a meeting with advocates in New York on Friday that Secure Communities remains in effect in jurisdictions that have rejected the program.
For a copy of the letter to ICE Director John Morton, please visit: http://www.thenyic.org/Letter-to-Morton/SComm/7-20-11