We warned you that the federal government had gotten into the snake-oil business with Secure Communities (S-Comm). Turns out that the actual purpose of S-Comm was just part of the story. The federal government also misled state and local governments, as well as the public, about whether or not the program was voluntaryFederal judge Shira A. Scheindlin ordered the release of the hundreds of internal S-Comm documents, remarking,
“… ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] and DHS [Department of Homeland Security] have gone out of their way to mislead the public about Secure Communities. In particular, these agencies have failed to acknowledge a shift in policy when it is patently obvious -– from public documents and statements –- that there has been one.”
The documents show government officials doing back flips to avoid answering a simple question: is S-Comm participation mandatory for local governments? In one email released under the judge’s order, an S-Comm employee criticized the public message around Secure Communities:
“We never address whether or not it is mandatory –- the answer is written to sound like it is but doesn’t state it… It’s very convoluted –- or is that the point?”
Whether the program is mandatory or not became a critical question when more and more local governments began to opt out of the program.
Now, of course, the federal government has finally come clean: it doesn't actually care that S-Comm undermines the public's trust in local law enforcement, or that local governments across the country reject S-Comm. The federal government negotiated agreements with governors across the country to authorize states’ participation in S-Comm, which would lead one to believe that states had a choice whether to participate.
The Obama administration has now voided those agreements, as it prepares to implement S-Comm in every city, county, and state in the nation by 2013.
Unless we take action. Tell the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to oppose S-Comm by only referring to immigration authorities those who pose a threat to our communities.
Hector Villagra is the Executive Director of the ACLU/SC.