Under Secretary for Criminal Justice Policy and Planning Mike Lawlor today (Feb. 20) released a statement on the Federal Department of Homeland Security (DHS) decision to activate the “Secure Communities” program statewide in Connecticut.
DHS’s program activates on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012 according to Lawlor’s press release.
“Secure Communities” was piloted in 2008 under the George W. Bush administration, beginning in Texas. It does not reimburse participating local law enforcement jurisdictions for any additional costs and it has met with heavy criticisms in many of the states where it is now in effect.
Under the “Secure Communities” program, suspects’ fingerprints are submitted by local law enforcement to the FBI and ICE (US Immigration and Customs Enforcement). If the fingerprints match those of a non-U.S. citizen (including those here legally), the Law Enforcement Support Center (LESC) of ICE is notified, and there is an investigation of the individual’s immigration status and criminal history.
ICE may then direct local law enforcement to hold a suspect for up to 48 hours beyond his/her scheduled release date, while ICE initiates the deportation process. Undocumented immigrants can be deported even if they haven’t committed a crime, and legal immigrants who commit certain serious crimes can be deported.
Originally, states became a part of the program voluntarily through a “memorandum of understanding,” or could choose to opt out. However, that is no longer the case and the DHS goal is to implement the program nationwide by 2013.
According to a report in the Huffington Post in October 2011 (“Secure Communities Agreements Canceled, Participation Still Required”), ICE director John Morton wrote a letter to governors that states, “ICE has determined that a [memorandum of agreement] is not required to activate or operate Secure Communities for any jurisdiction.”
Lawlor notes, in his statement, that “Six months ago, when the Department of Homeland Security announced that Secure Communities was scheduled to go ‘live’ statewide in Connecticut, Gov. Malloy asked for and received a delay in the activation because of these concerns.”
“While we are very mindful of the need to enhance public safety, there are legitimate concerns when it comes to the implementation of the Secure Communities program,” Lawlor said.
The program, “essentially converts local law enforcement officers into de facto agents of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE),” he states.
“This policy could lead to a situation where victims and witnesses in the immigrant community would be reluctant to cooperate with local and state law enforcement, something that would completely undermine the goals of this program,” Lawlor states.
He also points out that a federal Task Force that studied the program emphasized the purpose is to “selectively” pursue removal of illegal immigrants who “pose a threat to public safety, such as criminal aliens and national security threats, as well as repeat immigration law violators and recent border entrants.”
To spend time and money on other than these priority cases, “hinders our public safety mission by clogging immigration court dockets and diverting resources,” the report states.
However, there have been reports from other states where the program has been activated that it is being used in a much more sweeping fashion for general deportation or has been applied inconsistently.
Gov. Malloy has asked CT Department of Corrections Commissioner Leo Arnone to create an ongoing review “of how this program is implemented and what the ramifications are, and see what if any corrective action is needed going forward,” Lawlor states.
Posted Feb. 20, 2012
Related links: Additional links on the Homeland Security site for info about “Secure Communities” http://www.ice.gov/secure_communities
“President Obama’s policy on deportations is unevenly applied,” New York Times, Nov. 13, 2011 http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/13/us/politics/president-obamas-policy-on-deportation-is-unevenly-applied.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all
An analysis of the program with data on the number of deportations on Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secure_Communities
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