Local Law Enforcement Says Secure Communities Harms Their Efforts
Adam Serwer writes about a new report on DHS’ Secure Communities program, showing that it harms law enforcement efforts:
The law enforcement argument against Secure Communities goes something like this: Because the program is automatic, undocumented immigrants are discouraged from talking to police because of the possibility that they might end up getting deported. “When immigrants perceive the local police force as merely an arm of the federalimmigration authority,” Morgenthau writes, “they become reluctant to report criminal activity for fear of being turned over to federal officials.” […]
What that means is the program retains a number of the problems caused by Arizona’s draconian SB-1070 law: It incentivizes racial profiling and as the report documents, discourages undocumented immigrants from talking to police. Several immigrant-friendly states have tried to opt-out of the program, but DHS reversed itself months ago and said that the program wasn’t optional.
And they should be afraid of this. In the Los Angeles task force hearing, a number of people relayed stories of undocumented immigrants being sent to ICE after reporting crimes. One woman found a dead body and was sent to ICE after getting a subpoena from the District Attorney. There are other examples of victims of domestic violence reaching out to the cops and getting deported as a result.
ICE is using the biometric data that local law enforcement routinely sends to the FBI to check immigration status. So they feel they have no reason to allow communities to opt out. As a result, law enforcement’s job gets harder.
A report from local sheriffs put out by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network in Los Angeles had similar concerns about the program.
“The perspective that I and others are trying to express is that (the program) should be used to deport serious and dangerous felons who are here illegally, and not people who are driving without a license or drinking a beer on someone’s front steps,” said Mike Hennessey, sheriff of San Francisco. “When local law enforcement is involved in enforcing immigration laws, it harms the trust with regard to the local community.”
Hennessey and others quoted in the report fear members of the community are less likely to come forward to report crimes because they are afraid they could be deported. The report also documents concerns that the Secure Communities program contributes to racial profiling, strains local resources and contributes to jail overcrowding.
It’s just a statistical fact that the immigrants being rounded up by Secure Communities are increasingly low-level offenders or even people never convicted of a crime.
A few people asked me why the Obama Administration is so dead-set on deporting hundreds of thousands of immigrants, when they have no hope of attracting the anti-immigrant crowd from a political standpoint. Rep. Luis Gutierrez explained that to me at Netroots Nation, and I think if more people understood this rationale you’d see even more outcry than you do now:
So why have there been so many deportations, more than under the Bush Administration? Gutierrez suggested that the White House feels they have a mandate from Congress to deport 400,000 people a year. Which means they’re literally breaking up families to fulfill a budgetary authority. Congress has expanded deportation systems and given DHS more money to deport. So the contractors have been paid, and now they have to be used. That’s how Secure Communities, a real cash cow for the contractors, was created. And that’s why they don’t want states dropping out. “The fastest-growing airline in the country is the one that flies around undocumented immigrants,” said Gutierrez. In the end, it comes down to money, for detention, information sharing and the mechanics of deportation.
This is especially craven in the context of harming local law enforcement efforts and breaking the trust of an entire subset of the community.