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Secure Communities Goes Yet Another Step Too Far

Sari Long on August 11, 2011

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

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

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

S-Comm has been criticized for targeting nonviolent criminals, wasting millions in taxpayer dollars, and undermining police efforts to cooperate with local citizens in arresting violent criminals. The governors of 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 completed in every jurisdiction by 2013.

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

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

Places: United States