Our VoiceImmigrationNews & Politics

State and Federal Confrontation over what is a “Secure Community”

Catharine Debelle • Jun 20, 2011

Obama needs to dismantle the Security Communities strategy, and peruse policies for true immigration reform.

Secure Communities is a program created under the Bush administration and extended under Obama to toughen immigration policy. A collaboration between Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Department of Justice and Homeland Security; it is designed to locate and identify immigrants who have entered the country illegally and then committed a crime. Under Secure Communities participant counties submit the fingerprints of detainees to be compared to not just criminal databases but also immigration records.

The program is flawed. The Obama administration insists that its primary focus is on catching and deporting the worst, most dangerous offenders. But the results show otherwise. Tens of thousands of immigrants have been detained and deported who have no criminal records and pose no conceivable danger to their communities.

Very few communities today are in agreement that the program works. Texas is looking to expand the program, and Arizona wants to also check the immigrant status of hospital patients. However, the majority of states and counties have either chosen not to participate or have withdrawn their cooperation. Massachusetts this month joined with New York and Illinois in leaving the program, after concluding that the immigration agency’s operation of the program was flawed.

According to Illinois state officials the program was not accomplishing its stated goals of deporting convicted criminals, but had swept up many immigrants who were here illegally but had not been convicted of any crime. Many state and local authorities also object to the program because it takes local law enforcement personnel away from their primary duties to keep their communities safe, and creates unnecessary tension between law enforcement and the immigrant communities.

The secure communities program has alienated Latino communities that voted for Obama and were hoping for the passage of legislation offering legal status. But the biggest problem with the Secure Communities policy is that it makes communities less secure.

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