There is growing concern that the federal 287(g) and “Secure Communities” programs, which puts local law enforcement officers on the front lines of enforcing federal immigration laws, are actually making communities less secure. As Lynn Neugebaeur, an advocate for victims of domestic violence, describes it:
How can I as a lawyer say now in good conscience, free and clear, ‘Don’t worry about anything, call the police,’ because if you call the police, you can be reported to immigration services.
Not only are these sentiments being voiced by advocates for crime victims, but the local police as well. They worry that 287(g) and Secure Communities actually chills crime reporting by immigrants. When immigrants see police as deportation agents, they are less likely to come forward to report crimes or serve as witnesses. This gives criminals a free pass to prey on immigrant communities, and undermines public safety for everyone.
In Washington, DC, these concerns led Police Chief Cathy Lanier to work with the federal government to try to narrow Secure Communities and focus it on serious offenders. Unfortunately, her changes were not implemented:
“In the case of domestic violence, or if it is a minor misdemeanor case, there is a concern people will not come forward and report it,” she said, explaining why she thought suspects picked up in minor crimes should not be referred for an immigration status check.
She also said she was concerned that domestic abuse wouldn’t be reported because the victims would fear the deportation of family members. “If they don’t report it before it escalates, we don’t have a chance to stop it before it escalates.”