Brittney Nystrom of the National Immigration Forum, To Serve on DHS Advisory Committee
July 01, 2011
In response to growing criticism and concerns about the Secure Communities program, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has invited the National Immigration Forum and others to participate on a new advisory committee. The full details of the advisory committee’s role and process are not yet clear. According to ICE’s website, this committee will advise ICE Director John Morton “on ways to improve Secure Communities.” Specifically, one task of the committee will be delivering recommendations regarding the treatment of individuals identified through Secure Communities as a result of being charged with minor traffic offenses.
The National Immigration Forum seeks to eliminate the harmful impact of the Secure Communities program. We will work to ensure the committee engages in a deliberation process that is open and accessible to the public, and will reiterate our concerns regarding both the design and implementation of the Secure Communities program. It is crucial that the advisory committee consider and address the programs failures beyond the question of responding to individuals who are ensnared by Secure Communities due to low level offenses or infractions.
The National Immigration Forum will urge DHS to halt the Secure Communities program until the issues below are addressed.
· Community trust in police has suffered as a result of Secure Communities, making us all less safe. Legal and illegal immigrants, as well as U.S. Citizens with immigrant family members, are much more hesitant to contact the police either for protection or to report a crime when doing so may put them or their family at risk of immigration consequences. Secure Communities has led to the initiation of deportation proceedings for numerous victims of crime, particularly of domestic violence, who have called for police protection. Public safety declines when crime goes unreported and residents fear the police.
· Police practices drive identifications made by DHS through Secure Communities. Biased or discriminatory police practices shape the composition of individuals who are booked into jail on charges of wrongdoing. Secure Communities then screens all those booked into jail for immigration violations. Anecdotes about racial profiling in active Secure Communities jurisdictions, combined with high numbers of arrests for minor traffic offenses, present a real concern that Secure Communities is serving as a conduit for discriminatory arrests.
· Immigration enforcement is a federal authority. The rapid and widespread expansion of the Secure Communities program into local law enforcement jurisdictions through has caused pervasive confusion and misunderstanding as to the roles and responsibilities of local, state, and federal agents.
· The expansion of Secure Communities has dramatically increased the use of immigration detainers, which can have tremendous impact upon the criminal justice system. Detainers are requests from ICE that law enforcement agencies notify ICE when a certain arrested individual will be released from custody to enable ICE to assume custody within a designated 48-hour period during which the law enforcement agency can continue to detain the individual. Detainers limit an individual’s rights throughout the criminal justice process, effectively creating a second tier of the criminal justice system for non-citizens. Inconsistent and sometimes improper use of detainers combined with uncertainty in challenging detainers results in widespread violations of legal rights, as well as significant costs to local budgets for increased custody of noncitizens held for ICE.