The Federal Government Should Work With, Not Against, Police Concerned about “Secure Communities”
Yesterday, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick (D-MA) announced that his state will join Illinois and New York in declining to participate in the federal government’s failed “Secure Communities” deportation program. The state of California, through the TRUST Act legislation that passed the State Assembly and now awaits action in the state Senate, is similarly considering a measure that would allow statewide communities to opt out of the program.
Like Governors Quinn and Cuomo, Governor Patrick is deeply troubled by the fact that Secure Communities program is not living up to its stated goal of targeting foreign-born individuals convicted of serious crimes. 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.” The Governor, his public safety director, and law enforcement officials from across the country are concerned that involving police in the deportation of non-criminals will chill crime reporting by immigrants and give criminals free reign to prey on our communities.
Despite these concerns, a senior official at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) told the Boston Globe that the federal government plans to “force” the state of Massachusetts to participate in this program, completely dismissing the Governor’s concerns about the program’s impact on community policing and public safety.
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice Education Fund, “Who knows best about what’s good for safety in their communities – police or political appointees at DHS? The federal government should take the outcry from law enforcement leaders seriously, not dig in its heels and refuse to reform this failed program.”
Governor Patrick’s concerns are shared by many law enforcement experts from across the country (additional quotes available here):
- Chelsea, MA Chief of Police Brian Kyes: Secure Communities has created “mistrust of local police, discouraged people from reporting crime, and made everyone more vulnerable to crime by breaking down hard earned relationships.”
- San Francisco Sheriff Michael Hennessey: “As the sheriff of San Francisco for more than 30 years, I know that maintaining public safety requires earning community trust. We relyheavily on the trust and cooperation of all community members – including immigrants – to come forward and report crimes, either as victims or as witnesses. Otherwise, crimes go unreported – and this affects everyone, citizens and noncitizens alike. It also leads to ‘street justice,’ in which residents who are too afraid to go to the police decide to take justice into their own hands, often with deadly result.”
- Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank: “The Secure Communities program combined with misguided state legislation has promoted a shift in local law enforcement’s mission across the country and driven a wedge between the police and public. The resulting priority adjustment places emphasis upon civil immigration action over community policing and all criminal enforcement. The conceit of the program is its intention to target serious criminal offenders. Unfortunately, community members and traffic violators are often more significantly impacted than violent offenders. We in law enforcement must safeguard community trust. Without the support and participation of the neighborhoods in which we serve, we cannot provide adequate public safety and maintain the well-being of our nation.”
- Thomas H. Mungeer, President of the New York State Police Benevolent Association: “We support Governor Cuomo’s action today in suspending Secure Communities until the numerous questions, including a federal Inspector General’s investigation, can be resolved. Police rely upon a partnership with the communities that they serve to ensure the public safety of us all. The questions that have surrounded the implementation of Secure Communities drives a wedge between law enforcement and the people they are sworn to protect. We are confident that the procedures we currently use and the strong relationships we currently have with federal, state and local authorities will ensure that we can keep our communities safe while also maintaining our relationship of trust.”
- Jack Mahar, Sheriff of Rensselaer County, NY and President of the New York State Sheriffs Association: “Every day, law enforcement officers put their lives on the line to rid our neighborhoods of crime, and we do it with the cooperation of the law-abiding public. This program was intended to make communities safer and stronger, but many people question whether this program has really accomplished its objectives. Governor Cuomo is right to remove our state from this program until all concerns are addressed.”
Read additional quotes from law enforcement leaders about the problems with the Secure Communities deportation program here.
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