As we reported last week, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) called for an investigation into federal immigration practices, noting that ICE and DHS has forced local police departments into participating in the Secure Communities Program — 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.
Yesterday, Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) stood behind Rep. Zoe Lofgren with this statement:
“I support Representative Zoe Lofgren’s request for an investigation into statements by the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) about whether state and local jurisdictions can opt-out of the Secure Communities program. There is a fog of confusion surrounding this program and the recent release of internal DHS emails has shed light on the fact that DHS has tried to coerce states and localities into participating instead of addressing their concerns about the program’s impact on community policing and crime fighting. In addition to an investigation by the Office of Professional Responsibility and the Department’s Inspector General into the question of state and local opt-outs, DHS should limit the program to individuals convicted of serious criminal offenses.”
“While I strongly agree that serious criminals should be removed from the United States, this program has gone awry and strayed from its mission. It needs fundamental reform and state and local police officers, who are on the front line of crime fighting and protecting our community, should be able to decide whether the program helps or hurts their number one priority of fighting crime.”
Police departments have repeatedly voiced concern over the program, arguing that their involvement will make community policing harder. Though Secure Communities is intended to target “criminal” undocumented immigrants, it’s hard to know what that is when rogue police officers decide to criminalize and punish undocumented immigrants for merely “looking” like they’re undocumented (Remember SB 1070?).