Source: Tucson Citizen

Fight about reforms to Secure Communities program heats up

by Hugh Holub

Jul. 20, 2011

Press Release from Rights Working Group:

Rights Working Group Joins Over 200 groups To Decry the Department of Homeland Security’s So-called “Reforms” of the Secure Communities Program

July 20, 2011, Washington, D.C.- Today, in a letter to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton, Rights Working Group joined over 200 civil and human rights organizations, law enforcement officials, and faith leaders from across the country to denounce the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) so-called reforms of the Secure Communities program.

On June 17, Morton announced the formation of an advisory group now constituted as the Homeland Security Advisory Council’s Task Force on Secure Communities, which would issue recommendations in 45 days involving the treatment of migrants arrested but not convicted of minor traffic offenses. In addition, Morton issued memos once again calling for prosecutorial discretion and prioritizing serious criminals for removal proceedings.

In response, civil and human rights organizations, law enforcement officials and faith leaders issued a letter to Morton, condemning the narrow scope of Morton’s initiatives as virtually meaningless and failing to address continued concerns of racial profiling and public safety raised by the Secure Communities program.

The Rights Working Group rejects Morton’s process of minor tweaks for the following reasons:

▪ Prosecutorial discretion memos are mainly restatements of current policies.

▪ The DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties does not have the resources, staffing or authority to provide the oversight Morton has called for.

▪ The task force, which is expected to make public its recommendations on July 28th, is narrowly focused and was handpicked by DHS. No impacted community members are a part of this task force.

Secure Communities continues to contribute 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 ratcheted up fear of law enforcement authorities in communities of color, making it far more difficult for police to do their jobs, which rely on the cooperation of immigrant communities.

According to Margaret Huang, Executive Director of Rights Working Group, “Secure Communities keeps local police from fulfilling their core mission of protecting our communities because when local police target people to enforce immigration law, it increases the level of fear and makes it far more difficult to gain community trust.”

As the letter notes, the vast majority of undocumented battered women are already reluctant to report their abuse to police for fear of detention and deportation.

Secure Communities and similar programs make it even less likely that immigrant witnesses and victims will come forward.

“This Administration can no longer continue to stand by Secure Communities,” said Huang. “By continuing to support this program they are sanctioning racial profiling, eroding the trust local law enforcement agencies have built with communities of color and showing the international community that our immigration system does not respect the basic human rights of all persons in our country.”

Rights Working Group urges DHS to:

• Immediately stop the implementation of Secure Communities and similar programs unless and until meaningful civil rights and civil liberties safeguards are put in place to ensure that racial profiling and other human rights violations are not occurring, including collecting data on the perceived race or ethnicity of the people arrested, the charges that are lodged and the ultimate disposition of the case.

• Terminate Secure Communities in jurisdictions that have chosen to opt out of the program.

• Immediately suspend Secure Communities in jurisdictions with a documented record of racial profiling or where DOJ is actively investigating a pattern or practice of discriminatory policing.



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