Secure Communities Goes Yet Another Step Too Far

In June, PHR blogged its concerns that the Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s (ICE)“enhancements” to its controversial Secure Communities (S-Comm) program weremerely cosmetic and would do nothing to protect people who are unfairly sweptup in its overly broad net. Now, itseems that those concerns are well-founded.

On Friday, ICE made an announcement to clarify that S-Commis a federal issue and that states are not free to opt in or out of theprogram. This is in direct contradiction to early ICE statements aboutimplementation of S-Comm. 

Since S-Comm‘s inception, ICE has worked with almost 40states in 1,500 jurisdictions to issue individual “memoranda of agreement”outlining each party’s responsibilities in implementing the program. Now, ICE isunilaterally rescinding those MOA and saying that no such agreements arerequired for it to continue implementing this controversial program.

S-Comm has been criticized for targeting nonviolentcriminals, wasting millions in taxpayer dollars, and undermining police effortsto cooperate with local citizens in arresting violent criminals. The governorsof New York, Massachusetts, and Illinois have said they would not comply with S-Comm,but now it appears that compliance is not only mandatory, but will be completedin every jurisdiction by 2013.

This step confirms suspicions that ICE Director John Morton’s June memopromising to listen to concerns over the implementation of S-Comm was merelylip service. ICE has demonstrated that it is simply not interested in improvingthe program based on legitimate concerns. Instead, ICE is imposing S-Comm onstates and localities wholesale.

This latest attempt by ICE to force participation in S-Comm isa repudiation of its willingness to listen to concerns about the program, andit poses a significant danger to immigrant communities. It remains unclear whatwill happen in Illinois, Massachusetts, and New York. There are good reasons thosegovernors do not want the program implemented in their states – and now itremains to be seen what will happen when this ill-conceived and wastefulprogram expands to all US jurisdictions in the next couple of years.

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