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DHS Pulls Rank; Breaks Secure Communities Agreements and Undermines Local Law Enforcement

by Mahwish Khan on 08/05/2011 at 5:37pm

Secure CommunitiesRemember when we reported that DHS was in cahoots with the FBI re: the Secure Communities (S-Comm) Program, and how S-Comm was a stepping stone for a more invasive program that the FBI is calling their “Next Generation Initiative?” We were told then that S-Comm is a mandatory program, and there was no such thing as opting out once a jurisdiction had opted in. But at that point, it was already too late. Members of Congress had issued statements calling for an investigation into the program, maintaining that the Department of Homeland Security was not very transparent re: it’s opt out policies.

For as many as 1200 communities that had initially signed on to participate in the program, there seemed to be a caveat. With DHS, they signed a Memoranda of Agreement. According to the Illinois Coalition of Immigrant and Refugee Rights:

These “memoranda of agreement” had included provisions stating that states could terminate their participation in the program, as Illinois Governor Pat Quinn had done on May 4.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Massachusett Governor Deval Patrick also opted out.

Today, that right was unilaterally terminated by DHS. This means that states no longer get to opt out, even though they’d signed the agreement with the understanding that they could.

According to Margaret Huang, Executive Director of the Rights Working Group:

This is the United States of America, a democracy.  This is not a tyranny run by ICE.  Local jurisdictions and states have spoken and told the federal government that they do not want Secure Communities destroying their communities, separating families, and encouraging discriminatory police practices such as racial profiling.  For ICE to thumb their nose at these efforts and continue to require this program is unfair, un-American, and without legal basis.

The Secure Communities program has been denounced by community activists, faith groups, politicians, and police officials. In fact, law enforcement leaders have repeatedly voiced concern over the program, arguing that their involvement will make community policing harder.  They’ve explained that the Secure Communities Program has hindered their ability to fight crime. It has damaged the relationship between the police and the community, leaving many cases unreported.

With this latest development, DHS is doing the best possible job of making everyone less safe while undermining Governors Quinn, Cuomo and Patrick. Their attempts to mislead and coerce localities into participating in Secure Communities is inexcusable, and DHS must deal honestly and openly with state and local governments and allow for an opt-out provision.

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