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Letter to Director Morton regarding Secure Communities

Issue Highlights: 

Letter to Director Morton regarding Secure Communities

July 20, 2011
 
 
Director John T. Morton
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
500 12th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20536
 
Dear Director Morton:
 
We are writing to express our concerns over the newly-established Advisory Committee that will advise you on “ways to improve Secure Communities.”
 
As part of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (“ICE”) June 17, 2011 announcement concerning Secure Communities, an Advisory Committee (“Committee”) comprised of law enforcement, ICE agents, and advocates was established. At that time, the Committee’s purported mission was to issue recommendations (within 45 days) on how to “mitigate impacts on community policing,” “how to best focus on individuals who pose a true public safety and security threat,” as well as how to implement a post-conviction policy for traffic offenses. However, we have since learned that in fact the Committee’s scope is limited to recommendations about minor traffic offenses—a significant departure from your earlier announcement and wholly inadequate to address growing concerns about Secure Communities’ implementation, negative impact on community policing, and the civil and human rights violations occurring as a result of the program.
 
In addition, the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General, responding to concerns by Congress that ICE misled state officials to believe that participation in Secure Communities was voluntary, has planned an audit into the program. Notwithstanding the pending audit, the Advisory Committee will be making recommendations within 45 days—recommendations that will be uninformed by the Inspector General’s findings.
 
The Advisory Committee also appears to lack any accountability to the public and is completely devoid of transparency. The Advisory Committee was established without public input and members of immigrant communities have not been asked to join the committee. Given the well-documented evidence of ICE’s lack of transparency, accountability, and credibility in its implementation of the program, strong public scrutiny is needed to ensure ICE works with the Advisory Committee members and other stakeholders to meaningfully address concerns about the program. 
 
In light of these facts and growing concerns about the program, the creation of the Advisory Committee is not sufficient to address the well-documented problems surrounding Secure Communities—a program that has already torn apart thousands of families and devastated communities across the country by funneling people into a detention and deportation system rife with abuse. To adequately examine the program, the Committee, at a minimum, must include affected community members who can speak to the impact of the program and be allowed to do significantly more than simply make recommendations about minor traffic offenses. The Committee must be permitted to investigate and respond to the following criticisms voiced by governors, members of Congress, law enforcement officials, and immigrants and their allies:
 
Secure Communities makes everyone less safe by driving a wedge between local police and the communities they serve. For years, law enforcement leaders have warned of the dangers of turning police into immigration agents because they want victims and witnesses in the community to feel safe reporting crimes.  By relying on local police to enforce immigration laws against the very communities they are charged with protecting, Secure Communities is sending a clear message to members of the immigrant community that any contact with the police could lead to their deportation. This fear has forced immigrants to make the tragic choice between seeking help and facing deportation or risking their safety to avoid deportation. In her Congressional testimony earlier this year, victim advocate Leslye Orloff noted that only 18.8% of battered undocumented women are willing to report their abuse to police, and warned that, “[t]he heightened fear of detention and deportation that increased immigration enforcement through 287(g) and Secure Communities is making it even less likely that immigrant victims will report and aid in the prosecution of rape and sexual assault.”
 
Secure Communities encourages racial profiling and indiscriminately funnels immigrants into an unjust and dysfunctional immigration detention and deportation system. Secure Communities contributed to the record number of detentions and deportations in 2010. Despite ICE’s claim that the program was designed to keep communities safe, Secure Communities has instead served as nothing more than a tool in meeting ICE’s goal of deporting 400,000 immigrants per year, channeling immigrants into deportation proceedings – regardless of whether they are guilty or innocent, how serious their criminal history is, how long ago their criminal charges occurred, what kind of rehabilitation they have demonstrated, or what ties they have to the community.  
 
There is mounting evidence that ICE intentionally misled the public as to the voluntary nature of the program.   In 2010, ICE stated that a locality that elected not to activate Secure Communities could notify ICE of its intention not to participate. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano even confirmed the voluntary nature of the program in a letter to then Chairwoman of the House Judiciary Immigration Subcommittee U.S. Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) in September 2010. However, according to documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against ICE by the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Cardozo School of Law, and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, ICE adopted an intentionally misleading definition of “voluntary” and “opt out” in order to expand implementation of the program before the expected pushback from localities. In addition, notwithstanding that ICE was aware of the FBI’s recommendation that the program be mandatory for “record linking/maintenance purposes” in June 2009, ICE officials continued representing Secure Communities as voluntary to state and local officials, casting serious doubt on their credibility. And earlier this month, a federal judge in the FOIA litigation rejected ICE’s efforts to withhold documents that would reveal information about Secure Communities, concluding that “[t]here is ample evidence that ICE and DHS have gone out of their way to mislead the public about Secure Communities.”
 
Citing concerns over conflicting reports from ICE about whether the program was mandatory, the program’s impact on victims and witnesses of crime, and ICE’s failure to meet its stated goals in implementing the program, governors from Illinois, New York, and Massachusetts have rejected the program, while the District of Columbia, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Washington have altogether refused to join. Los Angeles, San Francisco and Santa Clara, CA, and Arlington, VA have all passed local resolutions seeking to opt out. The California legislature is also considering the TRUST Act, which would allow counties throughout the state to opt out of the program. These decisions make clear the need to re-evaluate the implications of Secure Communities. More importantly, any use of data provided by these jurisdictions to perform searches of the Secure Communities database is unauthorized and unlawful.
 
Based on the above, we, the undersigned, believe the creation of the Advisory Committee falls far short of addressing the mounting concerns of government officials, law enforcement agents, civil and human rights organizations, and the public. We therefore urge you to immediately halt the program in order to meaningfully address the complaints against Secure Communities and reverse course on this misguided and dangerous policy. Thank you for your consideration of this important matter.
 
Sincerely,
 
 
 
ADC Michigan
ADC National 
African Services Committee
Albany Park Neighborhood Council
Alliance for a Just Society
Alliance for Immigrants Rights and Reform
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)
American Muslim Voice Foundation
Amnesty International USA
Arab American Association of New York (AAANY)
ARISE Chicago
Asian American Institute
Asian American Justice Center, Member of Asian American Center for Advancing Justice (AAJC)
Asian Immigrant Women Advocates
Asian Law Alliance
Asian Law Caucus
Asian Pacific American Legal Center
ASISTA Immigration Assistance
The Audre Lorde Project
Bay Area DREAM Act Coalition
Berkshire Immigrant Center
Bill of Rights Defense Committee
Black Alliance for Just Immigration
Black Law Enforcement in America
Brandworkers International
Brazilian Immigrant Center Inc.
Brazilian Women's Group
Breakthrough
California Immigrant Policy Center
Cambridge/San Jose las Flores Sister City Project
Cambridge United for Justice with Peace
Campaign for Community Change
Canal Alliance, Marin Co.
Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition
CARECEN Central American Resource Center Los Angeles
CASA de Maryland 
Casa Esperanza
Casa Freehold
Causa Justa :: Just Cause
CAUSA Oregon
Center for Constitutional Rights
Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE), Ventura Co., CA
Central American Legal Assistance
Central Florida Jobs with Justice
Centro Legal de la Raza – Oakland
Chief Chris Burbank, Salt Lake City Police Department 
Chinese for Affirmative Action
Chinese Progressive Association
CITA, Albion, NY
Coalicion de Derechos Humanos – Tucson Arizona
Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA)
COFEM – the Council of Mexican Federations
Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition (CIRC)
Committee for Immigrant Rights of Sonoma County (California) [CIRSC]
Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES)
Council on American Islamic Relations, Greater Los Angeles Area (CAIR-LA)
Council on American Islamic Relations, San Francisco Bay Area
D.C. Bill of Rights Coalition
D.C. Jobs with Justice
De Comunidad a Comunidad / Community to Community Development
Defending Dissent Foundation  
Detention Watch Network
Disciples Justice Action Network
Dolores Street Community Services
Dominican Sisters of San Rafael (California)
El CENTRO de Igualdad y Derechos
Empire Justice Center
Enlace Chicago
Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM)
Families for Freedom
Farmworker Legal Services of NY, Inc.
Fr. Jim Barnett, O.P., Adrian MI
Fellowship of Reconciliation
Florida Immigration Coalition
Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center
Frey Law Office, Minnesota
Gainesville’s Interfaith Alliance for Immigrant Justice
Georgia Detention Watch
Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights
Grassroots Leadership
HarborCOV
Hayward Day Labor Center
Hudson Valley Community Coalition, Cross River, NY
Human Rights Initiative of North Texas, Inc
Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR)
Immigrant Defense Project
Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota
Immigrant Legal Resource Center
Immigrant Solidarity Committee
inMotion
Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center - Cincinnati
Interfaith Coalition on Immigration, MN (ICOM)
Interfaith Leadership Project of Cicero, Berwyn, and Stickney (IL)
Interfaith Worker Justice
IRATE & First Friends
Jewish Council on Urban Affairs
Jobs with Justice, National
JUNTOS
Just Neighbors
Justice Coordinating Committee of Dominican Sisters-Grand Rapids (Michigan)
Justice for Our Neighbors – NE
Kentucky Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (KCIRR)
Korean Resource Center (KRC), Los Angeles
Korean American Resource & Cultural Center, Chicago
La Fuente: NYCPP & LICPP
La Raza Centro Legal / San Francisco Day Labor Program / Women's Collective
La Union
Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center
Latino and Latina Roundtable of the San Gabriel Valley and Pomona Valley
Latino Organization of the Southwest - Chicago
Latino Youth for Higher Education Program
LatinoJustice PRLDEF
Latinos United for Change and Advancement (LUChA)
Law Offices of Mark E. Nerenberg, P.C.- New York
Legal Aid Justice Center -- Immigrant Advocacy Program
Legal Services Staff Association, Unit of UAW Local 2320
The Legal Aid Society – New York
Logan Square Neighborhood Association
Long Island Immigrant Alliance
Long Island Teachers for Human Rights
LULAC-Syracuse Chapter
Lutheran Social Services of New York Immigration Legal Project
Make the Road New York
Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA)
Massachusetts Jobs with Justice
Matahari: Eye of the Day
Mi Vida Family Services, Inc.
Migrant Support Services of Wayne County, New York
Migrantes Unidos sin Fronteras, San Antonio, TX
Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee (MIRAc)
MinKwon Center for Community Action (formerly YKASEC)
Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance (MIRA)
Monmouth County Coalition for Immigrant Rights (NJ) 
Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition
Mountain View Day Laborer Center
Mujeres Unidas y Activas
Muslim Legal Fund of America (MLFA)
Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC)
National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum
National Day Laborers Organizing Network (NDLON)
National Domestic Workers Alliance
National Immigrant Justice Center
National Immigration Law Center
National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC)
National Lawyers Guild
National Lawyers Guild Anti-Racism Committee
National Lawyers Guild National Immigration Project
National Lawyers Guild New York City Anti-Racism Committee
National Network for Arab American Communities (NNAAC)
National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
NC Immigrant Rights Project
Nebraska Appleseed Center for Law in the Public Interest
Neighbors United for a Better East Boston (NUBE)
New Hampshire Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees
New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE)
New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia
New York Annual Conference Task Force on Immigration
New York Faith & Justice
New York State Immigrant Action Fund
New York Immigration Coalition
New York State Working Group Against Deportation
New Sanctuary Coalition of New York
North Fork Spanish Apostolate
Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights
Northwest Immigrant Rights Project
NYC Labor Council for Latin American Advancement
NYS Interfaith Network for Immigration Reform
Olneyville Neighborhood Association – Providence, RI
Oregon New Sanctuary Movement
PASO (West Suburban Action Program) (Melrose Park IL)
Pax Christi NJ
Pennsylvania Immigration Resource Center (PIRC)
PICO National Network
Political Research Associates
Pomona Economic Opportunity Center
Presente.org
Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada
Public Counsel
PUEBLO-Santa Barbara County
Redlands Christian Migrant Association
The Restoration Project
Rev. José M. Santiago, O.P., MSW, D. Min., Aquinas Institute of Theology (St. Louis MO)
Rights Working Group
Rural Organizing Project – Oregon
Rural Women’s Health Project
San Bernardino Community Service Center, Inc.
SEIU 32BJ
Services, Immigrants Rights and Education Network (SIREN)
Sheriff Mark C. Curran - Lake County, Illinois
Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF)
Silicon Valley Alliance for Immigration Reform (SVAIR)
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas
Sisters of Mercy West Midwest Justice Team – Nebraska
South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)
Southern California Immigration Coalition (SCIC)
Southern Coalition for Social Justice
Southwest Workers Union
St Louis Inter-Faith Committee on Latin America
St. Pius V Catholic Church
Students Working for Equal Rights (SWER), Florida
Tenants and Workers United
Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights (TIRRC)
Tierra Y Libertad Organization - TYLO - Tucson, AZ
UAW Local 2325- Association of Legal Aid Attorneys
Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society
United We Dream Network
Vermont Immigration and Asylum Advocates
Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations (VACOLAO)
VOZ Workers Rights Education Project
Washington Defender Association’s Immigration Project, Seattle, WA
Wayne Action for Racial Equality
We Are One America
WeCount
Western Dominican Province (Oakland CA)
Wind of the Spirit, Immigrant Resource Center - Morristown, NJ
Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Women Encouraging Empowerment Inc.
Workers Defense Project
Workplace Project NY
 
 
Cc:  
 
Chuck Wexler, Executive Director, Police Executive Research Forum 
 
Ivan Fong, DHS Office of General Counsel
 
Kelly Ryan, DHS Office of Policy
 
Esther Olavarria, DHS Office of Policy 
 
Brandon Prelogar, DHS Office of Policy
 
Margo Schlanger, DHS Office for Civil Rights and Liberties 
 
Beth Gibson, ICE Office of the Assistant Secretary 
 
Andrew Lorenzen-Strait, ICE Office of Policy 
 
Phyllis Coven, ICE Office of Detention Policy and Planning 
 
Felicia Escobar, White House Domestic Policy Council 
 
Cecilia Muñoz, White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs 
 
Stephanie Valencia, White House Office of Public Engagement
 
Lynn Rosenthal, White House Adviser on Violence Against Women
 

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