Rights Groups Join to Condemn Dangerous “Marriage of Convenience” of Criminal Justice and Immigration Systems

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September 29, 2010, Washington and New York – Citing systemic problems within both the immigration and criminal justice systems, 578 groups from across the country, including the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) today delivered a letter to President Obama demanding that he end the merger of immigration enforcement with criminal justice. The three-page letter expressed concerns and presented proof that the Obama administration’s increased reliance on local law enforcement to arrest, detain, and deport immigrants has exacerbated existing problems in the criminal justice system.

According to the groups, “The merger of immigration enforcement and local criminal justice agencies is not only bad public policy, it also sabotages local law enforcement agencies’ core mission of protecting public safety by undermining the trust of the communities they serve. It discourages people from turning to the police when they need to, even to report crimes. It undermines public safety by diverting scarce resources away from local policing and focuses them on false threats from people who look or sound foreign.”

Secure Communities, 287(g), and the Criminal Alien Program – the Obama administration’s signature immigration enforcement programs – all rely on heavy involvement from and cooperation with local law enforcement to siphon immigrants into the immigration enforcement and detention system and, ultimately, through deportation proceedings.

“The Obama administration’s overreliance on local law enforcement agencies to arrest, detain and deport immigrants legitimizes the racial discrimination that persists in the criminal justice system,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. “For all our communities, this marriage of convenience between the immigration system and the criminal justice system will only serve to further deter immigrants from cooperating with the police, and sever the already tenuous ties between law enforcement and vulnerable community members.”
As the letter to Obama points out, abuses within the criminal justice system have been well documented, and racial profiling continues to plague cities across the country. In New York City, for example, more than 81 percent of those stopped by police are Black or Latino. This data comes from the Center for Constitutional Rights lawsuit challenging the NYPD’s use of stop-and-frisk, Floyd v. City of New York. CCR, the National Day Laborer Organization Network (NDLON), and the Kathryn O. Greenberg Immigration Justice Clinic of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School also filed a lawsuit seeking the disclosure of information on the federal government’s Secure Communities program (see www.UncovertheTruth.org). Documents and data from both suits continue to be forthcoming even as both programs grow.

Said CCR Attorney Sunita Patel, “Racial profiling of Black and Brown non-citizens cannot be permitted simply because immigration authorities have chosen to use local police as their agents. The public outcry when the truth was uncovered about programs such as 287(g) and Secure Communities should lead the administration to end these dangerous immigration and police collaborations.”

Read the letter addressed to President Obama and view the full list of organizations that have signed on (pdf).

The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at ccrjustice.org.


Last modified 

September 29, 2010