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Yesterday, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick (D-MA) announced that his state will not participate in the federal government’s failed “Secure Communities” deportation program. Governor Patrick joins Governor Quinn of Illinois and Governor Cuomo of New York in taking a courageous stand against the flawed enforcement program, and others – like California — seek to find ways out of the agreement.
But Governors Patrick, Quinn and Cuomo aren’t fighting this battle on their own. They’re responding to calls from their communities to stand up for public safety and protect residents of their states. Grassroots groups have played a vital role in each statewide campaign to end Secure Communities. In Massachusetts, local groups including the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition and Centro Presente circulated sign-on letters and lined up testimonies at hearings around the state, laying the groundwork for Governor Patrick’s bold action. In New York, Governor Cuomo’s decision was a response to months of organizing by local groups, including Make the Road New York, the Immigrant Defense Project, the New York Immigration Coalition and the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights. Leading the way was Illinois, where the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights led a successful campaign to get Governor Quinn to opt out even while they were fighting for the Illinois DREAM Act. But the movement in the states was and continues to be big – so please add any leaders and organizations we may have missed in the comments section below!
These groups, and anyone who understands immigrant communities, knows that the Secure Communities program has gone way beyond its stated goal of targeting foreign-born individuals convicted of serious crimes. And thanks to the “Uncover the Truth” campaign led by the National Day Laborers Organizing Network, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Benjamin H. Cardozo School of Law, they have the numbers to back it up. For example, according to the New York Times:
Official figures from Boston showed that 54 percent of the immigrants deported under the program had no criminal convictions, only civil immigration violations. Only about one in four deportees under the program had been convicted of a serious crime.