The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Rights Groups Respond to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Announcement

On One Year Anniversary of Obama Administration Announcement of Immigration Reform, Groups Say DHS, ICE Spin Misleading


Today, rights groups responded to an announcement by DHS Secretary
Janet Napolitano and ICE Director John Morton earlier today regarding
results of recent immigration enforcement efforts. DHS claims
record-breaking statistics under the Obama administration; however, the
groups say that information from internal government documents regarding
the Secure Communities (S-Comm) biometrics and information-sharing
program are contrary. The documents were obtained through a Freedom of
Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed by the National Day Laborer
Organization Network (NDLON), the Center for Constitutional Rights
(CCR), and the Kathryn O. Greenberg Immigration Justice Clinic of the
Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law earlier this year.

"Police departments, local leaders and community members have been
working hard to opt-out of Secure Communities--a dangerous ICE initiative
that makes it hard for law enforcement to do their job and for
individuals and families to be safe," said CCR attorney Sunita Patel.
"ICE has done an extraordinary job with public relations in presenting
their own questionable numbers to the public--we have no choice but to
litigate to get answers."
The groups say that ICE's own records show that 79 percent of
people deported due to S-Comm are not criminals or were picked up for
lower level offenses. Furthermore, they say the program serves as a
smokescreen for racial profiling, allowing police officers to stop
people based solely on their appearance and arrest non-citizens, knowing
that they will be deported, even if they were wrongfully arrested and
are never convicted. Preliminary data confirms that some jurisdictions,
such as Maricopa County, AZ, have abnormally high rates of non-criminal
S-Comm deportations.
"Secretary Napolitano is more concerned with appearance than
reality when it comes to programs like Secure Communities Initiative,
but no amount of spin can refute the facts," said NDLON Legal Director
Chris Newman. "S-Comm is a bad idea, it has been deployed with
deception, and jurisdictions are increasingly saying 'no thanks' to the
program. Secretary Napolitano's home state of Arizona has proven why
it's a bad idea to use local police as 'force multipliers' to amplify
broken immigration laws."
According to advocates who have reviewed the S-Comm documents, they
reveal a pattern of dishonesty. Information about the nascent program
has been scarce, and the development of operational details has been
shrouded in secrecy. S-Comm, which currently operates in approximately
600 jurisdictions across the country, functions like the controversial
287(g) program and Arizona's SB1070, making state and local police
central to the enforcement of federal immigration law. The program
automatically runs fingerprints through immigration databases for all
people arrested and targets them for detention and deportation even if
their criminal charges are minor, eventually dismissed, or the result of
an unlawful arrest.
"Secretary Napolitano is failing to recognize the serious harm that
S-Comm is having on local law enforcement's ability to build and
maintain trust with local law enforcement," said Angela Chan, Asian Law
Caucus staff attorney. "As a New York Times editorial explained
yesterday, the Administration should not let its zeal for immigration
enforcement complicate the jobs of local law enforcement or impose new
layers of fear and isolation on immigrants."

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. CCR is committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.

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