New Document Confirms Secure Communities Program Is Voluntary, Rights Groups Say ICE Must Allow Counties Opt Out

For Immediate Release

New Document Confirms Secure Communities Program Is Voluntary, Rights Groups Say ICE Must Allow Counties Opt Out

Public Officials, Civil Rights Advocates Raise Concerns About Local Autonomy and ICE’s Controversial Police Collaboration Program

SAN FRANCISCO/NEW YORK/WASHINGTON - In a teleconference press briefing today, public officials and
civil rights organizations underscored that nearly two years after its
launch, ICE has finally suggested a procedure for local jurisdictions to
request to opt out of the problematic Secure Communities program
(S-Comm). In response to mounting public pressure and the release of
internal ICE documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act
lawsuit filed in April by the Center for Constitutional Rights,
the National Day Laborer Organizing Network and the Kathryn O. Greenberg
Immigration Justice Clinic at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law
,
ICE issued a seven-page document defending the politically sensitive
program. The document described for the first time what appears to be an
opt out process for local jurisdictions.
 

In today's briefing, San Francisco Sheriff Michael Hennessey and Santa Clara Supervisor George Shirakawa joined
the groups to express concerns about the harm to public safety caused
by the program, which enlists locals police into federal immigration
enforcement through checking the fingerprints of all individuals at the
time of booking and to raise questions about ICE's newly released, yet
somewhat vague procedure for opting out of the program. The groups
demand that ICE follow its own policy by allowing local jurisdiction
that have made this request, such as San Francisco, to opt out.
 

San Francisco Sheriff Michael Hennessey said,
"Despite ICE's contention that a local jurisdiction may opt out of
Secure Communities by submitting a formal request in writing, my
experience has shown this not to be true." The Sheriff re-submitted a
request to opt out this week citing the new ICE procedure in a letter
addressed to the Department of Homeland Security and the California
Attorney General that states "that the information provided...suggests
there is now a procedure in place to address such requests."
 

Santa Clara County Supervisor George Shirakawa
added, "The County of Santa Clara has been struggling to understand the
so-called ‘voluntary' roll-out of Secure Communities in our jails. Santa
Clara County has a long-standing policy of not entangling immigration
enforcement with local policing. We are not in a position to do ICE's
work." 
 

Earlier this month the Office of the County Counsel of Santa Clara
wrote a letter to the Department of Homeland Security asking for
clarification about the opt out process and never received a response.
 Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D), Co-chair of the Immigration
Sub-committee, also wrote a letter requesting clarification, noting that
"there appears to be significant confusion about how local law
enforcement agencies may 'opt out' of Secure Communities."  To download a
copy of this letter as well as Sheriff Hennessey's letter, click here.
 

"We have known all along that S-Comm is a voluntary program because
it is a program, not a federal law, and it interferes with local
interests in protecting public safety by destroying any trust immigrant
residents have in the police," said Angela Chan, Staff Attorney at the Asian Law Caucus,
a nonprofit civil rights organization in San Francisco that serves
low-income Asian American immigrants. "It's a promising development that
ICE has finally come out and acknowledged that the program is voluntary
in a written statement.  The next step is for ICE to follow through and
allow San Francisco to opt out since both our Sheriff and our Board of
Supervisors have clearly stated our city's request to opt out."
 

S-Comm now operates in 574 jurisdictions in 30 states. ICE
Assistant Secretary John Morton has declared his intention to deploy
S-Comm nationwide by 2013, and has vigorously defended the program in
the media as an innocuous information-sharing program that does not
require local police to enforce immigration laws. But according to Sarahi Uribe of NDLON and
lead organizer of the "Uncover The Truth Behind ICE and Police
Collaborations" campaign, "Details have been scarce, and frankly there
has been an Orwellian tone to Assistant Secretary Morton's S-Comm
propaganda campaign. Despite clear warning signs from Arizona about the
dangerous consequences of the ICE-police mergers, the Assistant
Secretary has accelerated its expansion. Local governments, law
enforcement and the public demand that ICE immediately amend the S-Comm
agreements to outline a clear and functional opt out process and respect
the requests of jurisdictions like San Francisco to opt out of the
program's implementation."
 

Groups say that particularly problematic is S-Comm's mechanism that
automatically runs fingerprints through immigration databases for all
people upon arrest, regardless of whether they are ultimately convicted.
Civil rights organizations raised concerns about the potential for
police to use low-level criminal stops as a pretext to trigger
immigration proceedings. Law enforcement officials have expressed
apprehension about the program's effect on community policing and
interference with local criminal investigations.
 

According to Jazmin Segura at the Services, Immigrant Rights & Education Network,
"Secure Communities is a dangerous program that increases the
collaboration between local law enforcement and ICE. This collaboration,
which makes immigrants reluctant to trust local authorities, can
critically undermine the health and well being of all
residents--including U.S. citizens. We are pleased ICE has taken the
first step in ensuring a clear opt-out process so that counties like
Santa Clara can continue to protect and promote the public safety of our
community."
 

Visit CCR's Secure Communities FOIA case page
for the text of the April 27th FOIA Complaint, all records obtained
through the FOIA litigation and other relevant analysis and documents.
To download the groups' response to the seven-page ICE document, click here.

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The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.

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