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DHS “Secure Communities” Program Needs Serious Scrutiny

by Pili Tobar on 12/01/2011 at 3:32pm

secure communitiesOver the past several months, the controversy around DHS’ Secure Communities deportation program has grown exponentially as advocates for immigrants and victims of crime, state governors and law enforcement professionals, and even a DHS-appointed task force arrived at a serious conclusion: the program may claim to improve community safety, but is actually destroying the relationship between police and the immigrant community and undermining public safety as a result.  Despite being billed as a program focused on dangerous criminals, fully 57% of all immigrants deported through Secure Communities as of October 31, 2011 had either been convicted of low-level offenses, such as traffic violations, or had no criminal record at all.

A report published earlier this year by America’s Voice Education Fund, Public Safety on Ice: How Do You Police A Community that Won’t Talk To You?, uses examples from California, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, and Washington to illustrate the damage that Secure Communities and other programs are having on community policing.  As the report states, “In order to investigate crimes, lock up criminals, and protect the public, police need the trust and cooperation of everyone in their communities.  When immigrants worry that contact with the police could lead to deportation, they are much less likely to report crimes and assist in investigations.  This makes the job of police much harder, and the ‘job’ of criminals much easier. The result: an entire community is less safe.”

Today, the House Immigration Subcommittee is holding a hearing on the program.  But if previous hearings are any indication, the Republican leadership is more likely to use it as a platform to bash the Obama Administration than to review the serious concerns raised by governors, law enforcement executives, and advocates.

The government’s own data proves that Secure Communities is not focused on dangerous criminals, but casts a wide net and ensnares thousands of immigrants who have committed no crime.  When a traffic stop leads to deportation, immigrants get the message loud and clear: avoid the police at all costs.  This makes them far less likely to report crimes they experience or witness, gives criminals a free pass, and hurts us all.

This program needs serious scrutiny, but we’re not going to get it from Reps. Gallegly, King, and Smith.  It’s clear that they are more interested in finding an opportunity to say the words ‘immigrant’ and ‘criminal’ in the same sentence, and bashing the Administration, than finding real solutions to our broken immigration system.

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