Obama Administration Formally Denies States’ Right to Opt Out of Harmful Secure Communities Program

Posted by admin on Aug 5th, 2011

National Immigrant Justice Centre August 5, 2011- The Obama administration confirmed today that it will force all local law enforcement agencies in the United States to participate in the controversial Secure Communities immigration enforcement program and announced it had unilaterally terminated all existing memoranda of understanding (MOUs) previously signed by state governments, stating the agreements are unnecessary to establish local law enforcement participation in the federally mandated program. Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) condemns the Obama administration’s ongoing strong-arm tactics to force local law enforcement to assume the duties of federal immigration officers.

“The Obama administration clearly did not expect the severe backlash it received from state governments as it rolled out the harmful Secure Communities program,” said NIJC Executive Director Mary Meg McCarthy. “Once the local law enforcement officers who were burdened with carrying out the program began rejecting it, the administration apparently decided to drop the ‘opt-in’ charade and be honest about its intent: states have no say in the matter, and local police will be forced to become immigration officers.”

For more than two years, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has tried to persuade state and county governments to “opt-in” to the Secure Communities programs by signing the MOUs. Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced earlier this year that they would terminate their states’ agreements because the program had proven to be costly, hurt community policing, and did not benefit public safety. At the time, the Obama administration denied that termination was an option.

Under Secure Communities, local law enforcement agencies must submit fingerprints of any person they arrest to a federal immigration database. Individuals flagged by the system may be subject to an immigration detainer, which allows police to hold them for up to 48 hours until a DHS officer arrives to transfer them to federal custody. DHS statistics show that the majority of people identified and deported under the program have no criminal history or only minor offenses such as traffic violations.

Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center is a Chicago-based nongovernmental organization dedicated to ensuring human rights protections and access to justice for all immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers through a unique combination of direct services, policy reform, impact litigation and public education. For more information visit ww.immigrantjustice.org.

National Immigration Law Centre Statement

WASHINGTON, DC — The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) today announced significant changes to Secure Communities (S-Comm), the department’s signature immigration enforcement program. Starting today, DHS will unilaterally rescind memorandums of agreement with 42 states that authorized fingerprint information sharing with DHS under the flawed S-Comm program, stating that such agreements are unnecessary. This latest announcement makes clear that S-Comm is an unfunded, mandatory program imposed on states despite intentionally misleading assertions by DHS to the contrary. DHS also announced that it will continue to unilaterally implement S-Comm in existing jurisdictions and expand the program across the country.

S-Comm has been the subject of significant community outcry in recent months. DHS’s announcement comes shortly after several states, including Illinois, New York, and Massachusetts, attempted to opt out of the program by rejecting the memorandums of agreement their states currently have with DHS. Below is a statement from Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center.

“The Department of Homeland Security has clearly shown that its regard for rules, community safety, and transparency take a backseat to using S-Comm, a fundamentally flawed program, to advance its mass deportation agenda. Since the program’s inception, the program’s rules of engagement have shifted to fit DHS’s needs and not the needs of our communities. A program that was once voluntary has become mandatory, and a program that was sold as customizable to address community concerns has become a one-size-fits-all mandate.

“DHS has chosen to ignore the reams of evidence proving that S-Comm has become a virtual dragnet that ensnares members of the immigrant community and places them directly in the deportation pipeline and dismiss the concerns raised by communities across America. Instead they will unilaterally engulf the country in a program that will undoubtedly sever the tenuous tie between immigrant communities and local law enforcement and endanger us all.”

Nora Preciado, staff attorney at the National Immigration Law Center, added, “Today’s announcement continues a pattern of deception that has shattered any modicum of confidence that the immigrant community may have had with DHS. The Obama administration must end this disastrous program before it is allowed to wreak more havoc on communities from Los Angeles to New York.”

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