March 15, 2013, New York – Last night, a federal judge approved a settlement between the government and several rights groups in a long-running lawsuit demanding transparency in the controversial Secure Communities (SCOMM) program.
Since its rollout in 2008, SCOMM has spread nationwide, over the protests of local and state leaders, contributing to the Obama administration’s widely criticized, record-setting deportation numbers. The program targets all people booked into local jails, regardless of how minor the charges or even if no charges are pressed at all. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has recently come under fire for revelations that it has trolled state agencies and local jails looking for low-level offenders so as to meet its arbitrary criminal deportation quotas.
The settlement requires the government to provide new data about ICE’s use of immigration detainers – also known as ICE holds, detainers are the agency’s key tool in apprehending those identified through SCOMM and other programs – as well as to provide records on the contemplated expansion of local law enforcement officials’ power to access federal immigration databases through mobile devices.
Said Sonia Lin of the Immigration Justice Clinic of the Cardozo School of Law, “The settlement brings to a close litigation that has set important precedent on the government’s disclosure obligations; however, the harms caused by SCOMM go on."
Said Center for Constitutional Rights attorney Ghita Schwarz, “This settlement is a major victory for open government and an important step in stopping this dangerous program. It is a great disappointment, however, that we’ve had to come this far to get the Obama administration to come clean on its immigration policy and practices. As immigration reform talks continue, the harmful effects of SCOMM on immigrant communities must be on the table.”
Said Anthony Diana of Mayer Brown, LLP, “This case has changed how courts view government’s obligations under FOIA to provide electronic records. It will influence open government law for years to come.”
"Through this litigation, we uncovered the truth about a pernicious deportation policy that was misrepresented to the American public. It is now clear that S-COMM is primarily a tool to effectuate an unconscionable deportation quota," said Pablo Alvarado, Executive Director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON). "The program has endangered the public, radically altered relationships with law enforcement, and imperiled civil rights on a scale that exceeds what has happened in Arizona. As we close the book on this litigation, we now turn to the next phase of the fight: a termination of S-COMM as part of comprehensive immigration reform."
The suit was brought by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Immigration Justice Clinic of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, with pro bono representation by Mayer Brown LLP.
The mission of the National Day Laborer Organization Network is to improve the lives of day laborers in the U.S. by unifying and strengthening its member organizations to be more strategic and effective in their efforts to develop leadership, mobilize day laborers in order to protect and expand their civil, labor and human rights. Visit www.ndlon.org.
The Kathryn O. Greenberg Immigration Justice Clinic of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law was founded in 2008 to provide quality pro bono legal representation to indigent immigrants facing deportation. Under the supervision of experienced practitioners, law students in the Clinic represent individuals facing deportation and community-based organizations in public advocacy, media and litigation projects. Visit www.cardozo.yu.edu/immigrationjustice.