After a sudden increase in the number of localities opting out of ICE holds, and an ongoing review of DHS enforcement practices, there is growing speculation that a “reboot” of Secure Communities is coming.
The federal program has long been widely criticized for leading to unnecessary deportations, rather than focusing on priorities for deportation (the way the program was billed). As Austin, Texas Police Chief Art Acevedo said on a call organized by the National Immigration Forum’s Bibles, Badges and Business project:
I got a sense that what [the Obama Administration is] going to do is they’re going to go back, regroup, and they’re going to focus their efforts on what we need to focus on. We didn’t become cops to go chase a nanny that is watching our child, or a farm laborer who is helping us grow our crops.
And according to the Huffington Post, Robert Haas, the police commissioner of Cambridge, Massachusetts, said Jeh Johnson is aware of past issues with S-Comm, and has been clear that “the mistakes of the past can’t be repeated going forward.”
As Dara Lind at Vox today noted, however, a revamp of Secure Communities that, say, protected immigrants caught driving without a license from deportation might help tens of thousands of immigrants — while still not being as effective a reform as it could be. Immigrants caught coming back across the border to rejoin their families would still be considered high priorities for deportation, even though former ICE Director John Sandweg has said that DHS should stop considering them as such.
An editorial today at La Opinión agreed, highlighting the targeting of border re-crossers as a key flaw of Secure Communities:
One of the big mistakes was including the illegal reentry of a person into the country among the serious crimes that gave a case priority status for deportation. Therefore, the bulk of the record number of deportations—2 million—that the Obama administration has done were based on family separations and minor offenses.
Given S-Comm’s many flaws and the way it has ruined trust between the police and immigrant communities, La Opinión called for the program to be scrapped entirely:
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson wants to relaunch the program so that it finally fulfills its mission. The intention to guarantee public safety is commendable; what is doubtful is that Secure Communities is the way to accomplish that after the debacle it caused.
Secure Communities has zero credibility. To correct the mistakes from the past, the first thing DHS must do is eliminate this program and build one from the ground up, really focusing on undocumented immigrants convicted of serious crimes.