October 6, 2010, New York, NY — Today, rights groups responded to an announcement by DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano and ICE Director John Morton earlier today regarding results of recent immigration enforcement efforts. DHS claims record-breaking statistics under the Obama administration; however, the groups say that information from internal government documents regarding the Secure Communities (S-Comm) biometrics and information-sharing program are contrary. The documents were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed by the National Day Laborer Organization Network (NDLON), the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), and the Kathryn O. Greenberg Immigration Justice Clinic of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law earlier this year.
“Police departments, local leaders and community members have been working hard to opt-out of Secure Communities—a dangerous ICE initiative that makes it hard for law enforcement to do their job and for individuals and families to be safe,” said CCR attorney Sunita Patel. “ICE has done an extraordinary job with public relations in presenting their own questionable numbers to the public—we have no choice but to litigate to get answers.”
The groups say that ICE’s own records show that 79 percent of people deported due to S-Comm are not criminals or were picked up for lower level offenses. Furthermore, they say the program serves as a smokescreen for racial profiling, allowing police officers to stop people based solely on their appearance and arrest non-citizens, knowing that they will be deported, even if they were wrongfully arrested and are never convicted. Preliminary data confirms that some jurisdictions, such as Maricopa County, AZ, have abnormally high rates of non-criminal S-Comm deportations.
“Secretary Napolitano is more concerned with appearance than reality when it comes to programs like Secure Communities Initiative, but no amount of spin can refute the facts,” said NDLON Legal Director Chris Newman. “S-Comm is a bad idea, it has been deployed with deception, and jurisdictions are increasingly saying 'no thanks' to the program. Secretary Napolitano's home state of Arizona has proven why it's a bad idea to use local police as 'force multipliers' to amplify broken immigration laws.”
According to advocates who have reviewed the S-Comm documents, they reveal a pattern of dishonesty. Information about the nascent program has been scarce, and the development of operational details has been shrouded in secrecy. S-Comm, which currently operates in approximately 600 jurisdictions across the country, functions like the controversial 287(g) program and Arizona’s SB1070, making state and local police central to the enforcement of federal immigration law. The program automatically runs fingerprints through immigration databases for all people arrested and targets them for detention and deportation even if their criminal charges are minor, eventually dismissed, or the result of an unlawful arrest.
"Secretary Napolitano is failing to recognize the serious harm that S-Comm is having on local law enforcement's ability to build and maintain trust with local law enforcement,” said Angela Chan, Asian Law Caucus staff attorney. “As a New York Times editorial explained yesterday, the Administration should not let its zeal for immigration enforcement complicate the jobs of local law enforcement or impose new layers of fear and isolation on immigrants.”
Visit www.ccrjustice.org/secure-communities or www.uncoverthetruth.org.