National Immigration Forum Resigns From Secure Communities Taskforce
September 21, 2011
Brittney Nystrom, Director of Policy and Legal Affairs of the National Immigration Forum resigned on September 14, 2011 from the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Task Force on Secure Communities.
Throughout July and August, the National Immigration Forum (Forum) participated as a member of the DHS Task Force on Secure Communities. This body was created in response to growing criticism and concern from governors and law enforcement about DHS Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Secure Communities program. The Task Force was charged with issuing recommendations on ways to improve the program, including mitigating damage to community policing.
Because of deep misgivings about the Secure Communities program, we engaged in the Task Force process with the goal of producing meaningful and positive reforms to a program that, despite its flaws, is currently slated for nationwide deployment within a couple of years.
There is no question that the Secure Communities program is in dire need of reform. This summer, the Forum documented its concerns in an analysis of the program’s operation and a statement detailing needed reforms. This embattled program has strayed far from its original purpose of promoting public safety through the identification and removal of individuals who pose a real threat to national security or community safety. It currently operates with insufficient accountability and safeguards and too few consequences for those who misuse it. As a result, trust in local law enforcement agencies has been severely damaged in countless communities and in turn, communities are less secure.
Because we felt the recommendations in the report did not remedy flaws in Secure Communities’ operation, the Forum chose not to endorse the final report and tendered our resignation from the Task Force. In many areas, the Task Force delivered recommendations that - if implemented - would improve the operation of the Secure Communities program and strengthen civil rights and civil liberties protections.
However, the report fell short of sound policy recommendations that would cure fundamental flaws in the program. For example, local decisions about how and if to participate in the program should be honored. Also, individuals charged with civil immigration violations should not be targeted under a program that is funded and marketed as a means to identify individuals who are a threat to public safety.
This program runs counter to the Forum’s principles for sensible immigration reform. Until DHS can report that these flaws have been fixed, the operation of Secure Communities should be halted. To proceed otherwise jeopardizes not only the civil rights and dignity of individuals caught up in Secure Communities, but also the community safety that the program was allegedly designed to safeguard.