New online campaign calls for Sec. Napolitano to let counties opt-out of Secure Communities program

LatinaLista — Two issues that critics of immigration reform insisted needed to be addressed before serious talk could begin on what to do with 12 million people was secure the border and secure communities.

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With the deployment of additional National Guard troops and drone surveillance aircraft along the border, security at the border is tight. As is security in communities who opted to participate in the Secure Communities program of the Department of Homeland Security.

While 650 counties in 32 states have opted into the program, four states have 100 percent participation from all of their counties: Texas, Virginia, Florida and Delaware.

A program that helps with the removal of criminal aliens would seem to be a step in a positive direction to keep communities safe. Yet, law enforcement agencies in three cities are finding that their participation in the program is hampering their ability to do their jobs and they want out.

Unfortunately, according to Department of Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano, that is the only option not available.

The strategic goals of the Secured Communities program are:

Identify aliens in law enforcement custody, through modernized technology, continual data analysis and timely information sharing;

Prioritize enforcement action to apprehend and remove criminal aliens who pose the greatest threat to public safety; and

Transform criminal alien immigration enforcement to efficiently identify, process and remove criminal aliens from the United States.

However, the program is utilized in ways that law enforcement agencies didn’t foresee. For example:

On July 2010, a Chinese immigrant in California called the police for help in a domestic violence case, but instead of receiving the help she needed, she was arrested.
Pursuant to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) program known as Secure Communities (or S-Comm), her fingerprints were immediately sent to ICE and she was transferred into ICE custody even though no charges were filed against her.

It’s not an isolated case. Cases like this and the propensity to racially profile people, three cities — San Francisco, Arlington, VA and Santa Clara County, CA have voted to remove themselves from the program.

But because the federal government says the agreement is with the state and not individual counties, these cities have no choice but to stay in the program which is in align with the goals of the DHS which wants to have the entire nation participating by 2013.

To protest the government’s denial of counties opting out of the program, a campaign to let counties opt out has begun.

The campaign has over 30 immigrant and social justice organizations joining together to circulate an online petition demanding Secretary Napolitano allow counties to opt-out of the Secure Communities program, otherwise known as S-Comm.

Under S-Comm, local law enforcement automatically shares with ICE any fingerprints taken right after individuals are arrested, even if the criminal charges are eventually dismissed or if it’s the result of an unlawful arrest. This secretive program is roping in local law enforcement to execute ICE’s goals of arresting, detaining, and deporting immigrants in record numbers while destroying any trust from immigrant communities in local law enforcement in the process.

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