Today’s LA Times editorial points out the destructive effects of the “Secure Communities” program on our civil rights and on public safety.
“…the program's staggering failure to prioritize deportation efforts may actually result in more harm than good. Law enforcement officials in San Francisco, Santa Clara County and elsewhere want out of the program because they say it has a chilling effect on immigrants' willingness to report crimes or assist authorities. Police must now persuade immigrants that officers are interested only in preventing crimes, not deporting them.”
We've been saying for months now that the federal government has gotten into the snake oil business – that the federal government has been telling us that the Secure Communities program will make our communities safer from serious criminals, when nothing could be further from the truth.
Secure Communities will not make our communities safer. The program threatens to destroy the trust that police departments have struggled for decades to develop and maintain with immigrant residents.
Secure Communities does not target serious criminals. Under the program, the fingerprints of everyone booked into a county jail are sent electronically to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). This applies to everyone, no matter how minor the charge, and it happens before trial, which makes innocence irrelevant.
ICE's own data show that 79 percent of people deported because of Secure Communities either lacked any criminal record or were convicted of only minor offenses like traffic violations.
Secure Communities is of particular concern to victims of domestic violence. They are often arrested because police claim they can’t tell the perpetrator from the victim. This penalizes the victim of a crime for calling the police.
Two years after President Obama asserted that racial profiling still haunts us as a nation, his administration is promoting a program that allows police to arrest anyone they suspect is undocumented, regardless of the evidence, in order to trigger immigration proceedings.
This is not only arbitrary use of the law but also rank racial profiling. And it is being sold to us as sound legal policy when we can see that it isn’t.
James Pendergraph is the former executive director of the ICE Office of State and Local Coordination. In 2008, he told a conference of the Police Foundation exactly how cops on the street should exploit the Secure Communities program:
"If you don't have enough evidence to charge someone criminally but you think he's illegal, we can make him disappear."
Hector Villagra is the Executive Director of the ACLU/SC.