FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Wendy Rhein, Director,
Advancement Marketing & Communications
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Required Participation in Secure Communities Creates Fear not Trust
WASHINGTON, DC - (August 11, 2011) - The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC) strongly disagrees with Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) August 6, 2011 announcement to mandate state and local participation in the controversial Secure Communities program.
On Friday, August 6, the Obama Administration's Department of Homeland Security (DHS) notified the 39 governors who already signed agreements, many that included voluntary opt-out clauses, that they in fact cannot opt out of the program. By 2013, DHS said, the program will be nationwide and will not seek local cooperation.
The Secure Communities program uses fingerprints collected by local and state police -- after arrest but prior to conviction -- to assist immigration officials in identifying, detaining and deporting tens of thousands of immigrants each year.
Law enforcement officers across the country have determined that the program in fact makes communities less safe. The city of San Jose, California summed it up best when it stated in a city council resolution: "The City of San Jose has a strong interest in assuring that legal and undocumented immigrants do not fear interacting with their local governmental authorities. In past years, the City has seen how the reluctance of immigrants to interact with local authorities can critically undermine the health and safety of our community. For example, the failure of victims to report crimes, the reluctance of witnesses to cooperate with the police, or the unwillingness of parents to take children to school or to a health clinic, can have grave impacts on the well-being of all of San Jose's residents, including U.S. citizens."
Several governors had announced their intention to withdraw from the far-reaching program that does not, despite its mandate, target only those charged or convicted of serious criminal offenses. In fact, according to DHS's own data, 79 percent of individuals deported through Secure Communities between October 2008 and June 2010 were either noncriminal or were picked up for low-level offenses such as traffic violations.
Like Nicolas, 21, a rising senior at a New York university who was stopped for a routine traffic violation six weeks ago. He was arrested, fingerprinted, and paid the fine for his minor offense. Nicolas came to the U.S. lawfully at the age of 12, though he and his parents then overstayed their visas. He has never been in trouble with the law, is an active member of his community, and a volunteer with his church.
For any other 21 year old college student who committed the same offense and paid his fine, that would be the end of it. Nicolas is not a violent criminal or a repeat offender. He lives in a state that has chosen not to participate in the Secure Communities Program. He knows no other home but this one. Nicolas is not someone who should be targeted for deportation. But after last week's announcement, that state's hands will soon be tied.
"A community is a coming together of individuals, families, civic and religious organizations, law enforcement, and businesses who work as a unit to build something that is beneficial for all, where the whole is greater than its parts," said Maria M. Odom, executive director of CLINIC. "By mandating all states and localities to participate in Secure Communities, to bear the economic and social burdens of implementing this program, the community itself is undermined."
"This is a short sighted, bad faith approach, aimed at securing the highest numbers of deportations regardless of the desires of the communities themselves or the human cost," said Ms. Odom. "CLINIC's affiliates across the country are going to see their waiting rooms overwhelmed with mothers and fathers, sons and daughters fighting for family members in deportation proceedings. All this despite numerous voices of law enforcement leaders who feel strongly that this path will undermine community safety and cohesion. CLINIC's staff will continue to train its affiliates on enforcement and detention and will assist them to file complaints and request investigations if they have evidence of civil and human rights violations."
CLINIC is the nation's largest network of nonprofit immigration programs serving low-income and vulnerable immigrants. It supports more than 200 legal immigration programs located in 47 states and advocates for humane and just immigration policy. For more information go to www.cliniclegal.org.
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