In order to get California localities on board the Secure Communities program, it appears that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials had to resort to deliberate deception, fudging the facts as to whether the program was voluntary, what its priorities would be, and where it derived its authority.
Documents obtained this week by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the Cardozo Immigrant Justice Clinic paint a picture of a disorganized federal agency that lacks understanding of its own policies and promotes false statements even in light of contrary evidence.
Created in 2007, Secure Communities is an ICE-agency program designed to identify undocumented immigrants, prioritize them based on what kind of crime they’ve committed (if any), and process them for deportation. S-Comm, as it is sometimes known, relies on local police officers to double as federal immigration enforcement, and utilizes fingerprint databases to identify potential criminals.
The problem? Secure Communities has been heavily criticized over the last few years for encouraging racial profiling and conducting wide sweeps that often net more nonviolent immigrants than serious criminals. Immigration and Customs Enforcement records show that a vast majority of people, 79%, deported under Secure Communities had no criminal records or had been picked up for low-level offenses such as traffic violations. Of the approximately 47,000 people deported in that period, only about 20% had been charged with or convicted of serious “Level 1” crimes, such as assault or drug-dealing.
When immigrants are whisked away for deportation after being stopped for a broken taillight, it sends a clear message to the community: police are on the hunt for immigrants, not serious criminals. This creates a chill factor where immigrants in a community begin to distrust their own local police officers, causing them to not report crimes and not come forth with information out of fear. Relationships between the public and law enforcement become impaired, and programs like Secure Communities can ultimately create insecure communities where police cannot effectively fight crime.