Administration’s acknowledgement of severe S-Comm flaws highlights need for Moratorium and TRUST Act

In response to mounting criticism, the Department of Homeland Security announced today changes to the misnamed "Secure Communities" (S-Comm) deportation program. While the Administration’s announcement acknowledges grave problems in S-Comm’s design and implementation, it falls far short of the moratorium on the dysfunctional program that an increasing number of lawmakers and advocates have demanded.

Reactions follow; background information regarding growing opposition to S-Comm is at bottom of press statement.

Professor Bill Ong Hing, immigration law expert at the University of San Francisco, commented: “The fact is, under our Constitution, immigration is a federal responsibility. Neither a state like Arizona, nor the Federal government itself, can force local governments to act as immigration agents. Such measures compound the injustices of our deeply broken immigration system - and public safety and local resources are among the first casualties.”

California Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, author of California’s TRUST Act, which allows local governments to opt out of the flawed program, added: “Today’s announcement by ICE is simply window dressing.  How many more innocent people have to be swept up by the ironically named Secure Communities program before the Obama administration will change course?  Talking about the need for comprehensive immigration reform is not an excuse for continuing with a flawed, unjust program that is having tragic consequences for communities across the country.  It is time for a moratorium on S-Comm pending a real review of the program not just PR spin from ICE.”

The following is a statement on behalf of California organizations Asian Law Caucus, the ACLU of California, the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, the California Immigrant Policy Center, and NDLON:

"We are deeply disappointed by the inadequacy of the Administration’s response to the mounting body of evidence that the “Secure” Communities program is damaging public safety and ensnaring community members. The painful stories of domestic violence victims and other innocent community members facing deportation thanks to S-Comm underscore that the program has simply gone off the rails.

While today's announcement acknowledges that problems exist with the program, the measures outlined by the Administration are a far cry from workable solutions these problems.

To announce “reform” before review is an exercise in politics, not policy. The administration should suspend the program and wait for the Inspector General report in order to develop fair and transparent policies. 

Before vital relationships between local law enforcement and immigrant communities are furthered damaged, before more domestic violence victims, street vendors, family members, and workers who are merely striving for the American dream are swept up for deportation, S-Comm must be reigned in.

For the sake of public safety and transparency, we need real solutions. We strongly support California’s TRUST Act, which sets safeguards the federal government has failed to implement and allows local governments out of S-Comm, and we continue to call for a national moratorium on this fundamentally flawed program.”

Background: In recent weeks, Illinois, New York, and Massachusetts have either pulled out or refused participation in the program while numerous local governments have sought a way out of a deportation dragnet which harms public safety and has operated with no transparency or local oversight. Meanwhile, California’s TRUST Act passed the state Assembly (47-26) in May and the Senate Public Safety Committee this week (5-2). The bill would reform California's participation in S-Comm, assuring local governments’ ability to opt and setting basic standards for jurisdictions that do choose to participate

Simultaneously, pressure has grown at the Federal level. The deployment of S-Comm has been mired with misrepresentations and has led the Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General (OIG) to look at whether administration officials misled localities about the ability to opt out. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus  and  Congressional Progressive Caucus have both called for a moratorium on the program. Seven California Congressmembers from the Los Angeles area have also called for the state to suspend its participation in the program, while House minority leader Pelosi has called S-Comm a “waste of taxpayer dollars.”

Background information on the Secure Communities program is available here.