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Fundamental Flaws Loom Large while Secure Communities Task Force focuses on Traffic Violators

Last week, more than 200 law enforcement officials, civil rights organizations, and faith leaders joined together in calling for an immediate halt to DHS’s “Secure” Communities program. The controversial program runs the fingerprints of anyone arrested through a DHS database to determine whether they are deportable, essentially turning local law enforcement officers into ICE agents. Though the program purports to target those who pose a threat to public safety, a substantial number of those ultimately deported have no criminal record at all, or were simply detained for a minor offense such as a traffic offense or jumping a subway turnstile.  The program has contributed to the record number of deportations under President Obama’s administration—more than 1 million-- and has served as the signature program in the Administration’s enforcement regime.
 
Secure Communities has come under fire for driving a wedge between local police and the communities they serve, and for encouraging racial profiling. In recent weeks, governors from Illinois, New York, and Massachusetts have rejected the program, and the California legislature is considering the TRUST Act, which would allow counties throughout the state to opt out of the program. Last month, recognizing the rising tide of criticism about the program, ICE announced the creation of a task force comprised of law enforcement officials, ICE agents, and advocates. The task force’s sole responsibility? To make recommendations about whether immigrants should be flagged for deportation before or after they are convicted of a traffic offense. Not exactly the type of reform needed to address tragedies like this one. In their letter to ICE Director John Morton this week, groups made it clear that the agency’s thinly veiled attempt to quash the growing opposition to the program by governors, law enforcement officials, and elected leaders from across the country was seen for exactly what it was: a political maneuver.
 
In choosing to reject Secure Communities, Governor Cuomo and his counterparts in Illinois and Massachusetts have taken a stand against a program that, despite its name, undermines community safety and squanders resources on breaking up families and stoking fear in immigrant communities. The question remains: will the Obama Administration show the same commitment to our communities and reverse course on this failed program? 

 

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