There was a strong showing of supervisors, activists and community members at today’s rally to urge San Francisco to opt out of the Secure Communities Initiative, an automated fingerprint screening system that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) plans to switch on, in San Francisco on June 1—just two weeks ago.
The program links local law enforcement agencies to the Department of Homeland Security’s biometric system through interoperability agreements with each state. Scott Lorigan in the California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Criminal Identification and Information reportedly signed such an agreement with John P. Torres, acting assistant Secretary of ICE, over a year ago, on April 10, 2009. And according to ICE, As April 2010, biometric identification has been activated in 169 jurisdictions in 20 states:
In California, the system has already been activated in Alameda, Contra Costa, Fresno, Imperial, Los Angeles, Monterey, Orange, Sacramento, San Bernadino, San Diego, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Solano, Sonoma, Stanislaus, and Ventura.But as speakers pointed out at today’s rally, the supervisors and the communities they represent would not have even known that this system was about to go live in San Francisco, had it not been for San Francisco Sheriff Mike Hennessey, who spoke out after ICE informed local law enforcement agencies about the program three weeks ago.
Eric Quezada of Mission-based Dolores Street Community Services kicked off the rally with a rousing speech in which he warned that this “draconian Policy” was happening in the “shadow of Arizona.
Sup. Eric Mar warned that ICE’s proposed program will not make communities more safe.
”It was developed in the dead of night,” Mar said. “The police-ICE entanglement will hurt our communities and tear families apart.”
The Bush administration introduced the Secure Communities Initiative in March 2008. But as Mar observed, it is now being expanded under President Obama.“Many people accused of minor crimes will see families torn apart,” Mar said, citing statistics to show that “90 percent of those IDed have been arrested for minor, less severe crimes.
"The shadow of Arizona is starting to cover other cities,” Mar continued. “We can’t let Arizona come to SF."
Sheriff Hennessey told the crowd that he had written to California Attorney General Jerry Brown asking for his assistance in opting San Francisco out of the ICE program.“The Sheriff already has the authority to report foreign born folks charged with serious felonies,” Hennessey explained.
In a May 18 letter to AG Jerry Brown, Hennessey wrote that he believed that Brown’s agency “has the technological capability to isolate by agency the information linked to ICE.”
““I ask that you isolate transactions from the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department because Secure Communities conflicts with local laws,” the Sheriff continued. “My department already has a system in place that reports individuals to ICE and I do not wish it to be replaced by Secure Communities.”
Hennessey also expressed concern about the unintended consequences of ICE technology interfacing with that of the Department of Justice’s fingerprint database, which also holds fingerprints collected for non-criminal justice purposes such as employment applications. And he warned that the number of ICE referrals could explode under the new system.
Under this system, we’ll be fingerprinting 35,000-40,000 persons annually, “ Hennessey said. “I think that’s excessive.”
Currently the Sheriff’s Dept. reports foreign-born individuals arrested on a felony crime or found during the booking process to have a felony of a previous ICE contact in their criminal histories.
‘Since 2007, the department has delivered more than 3,100 individuals to ICE, and has reported at least twice that number,” Hennessey wrote. “I would like to keep system that way.”
At the rally, Hennessey warned that the new system will widen excessively to include folks who were charged with misdemeanors, infractions and traffic violations, but failed to show up in court.
“ICE has a record of secrecy. They won’t tell me what happened to folks they picked up, they won’t say if they are still in custody, been released or deported,” Hennessey said.
Sup. John Avalos said the Secure Communities Initiative is yet another example of why the nation needs comprehensive immigration reform.
“I don’t know if we have the ability to opt out, there are a lot of obstacles in our oath, right now.”
But he warned that the nation is passing laws that “stand at odds” with the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights “And we have rogue departments in the Obama administration, “ Avalos added. “ I consider ICE a rogue department. “
Rev. Phillip Lawson, a retired Methodist minister said he wanted to stand in solidarity with “resident aliens”.
“As black people, we know what it’s like to be aliens in our own land. And this enlarges the net of ICE. We will soon not be able to tell any difference between the police and ICE. And no one will trust the police.”
“I give thanks to the courage of folks here for instituting this attempt to say, no we will not cooperate…And we can also resist the law.”
Sup. David Campos, who provided much leadership in the last two years around the city’s sanctuary legislation, thanked Hennessey for blowing the whistle.
“None of us would have known this was happening,” Campos said. “This is the time for all San Francisco’s elected officials to stand up in support of the principles that led us to establish a sanctuary city. It’s not just the Board, but also the mayor who needs to step up and say that what just happened is not acceptable. This program eviscerates sanctuary city.”
Campos warned that the community has already lost trust in the local police, over the last two years, thanks to the city’s policy of referring juveniles to ICE when they are booked.
“If we cooperate [with SCI] that lack of trust will intensify,” he warned. “I applaud the sheriff, but we also need the police department to come forward.”
Campos laid the blame at Obama’s door.
“This is a Democratic president, who was elected with the support of the Latino and the immigrant community, but is engaging in practices worse than any other president.”
Tim Paulson, executive director of the Labor Council spoke on behalf of 150 unions in town. “Our work is dependent on the immigrant community,” He said. “Secure Communities is absolutely divisive and unconstructive. It pits worker against worker, families against families.”
Heidi Li of Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach warned that victims of domestic violence, trafficking and elder abuse would be at risk from ICE’s program.
“It will result in a situation where folks who need trust and assurance the most, will not feel safe and will no longer report to the police when they are the victims of abuse,” Li said.
At rally’s end, Hennessey told the Guardian, “The basis of Sanctuary city is to protect immigrants who are not doing anything wrong or serious. When ICE grabs someone who failed to pay a traffic ticket, and that person is supporting a family, I don’t think those crimes should rise to the level of deportation.”
Warning folks that folks did not know that SCI had been activated in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, Hennessey said all he can do is “raise the issue” of opting out.
Sup. Mar told the Guardian that the request to opt out is a “unique and creative tactic.”
“We have the strong legal backing from organizations around the country, but SFPD Chief George Gascon doesn’t seem convinced,” Mar observed
Christine Gasparac, Attorney General Jerry Brown’s press secretary told the Guardian that they received Hennessey’s May 18 letter requesting to opt out and are reviewing it.
“To clarify, the California Department of Justice manages the statewide database of fingerprints that are essential to solving crimes, but we have no direct role in enforcing federal immigration laws,” Gasparac said. “We were informed by ICE yesterday that they will work with counties to opt out of their program. Because that is a process directly between the county and ICE, we are advising local authorities who want to opt out to contact ICE directly.
Virginia Kice, ICE’s Western Regional Communications Director said, “under Secure Communities jurisdictions can choose not to receive the immigration-related information on individuals who are fingerprinted, but that information will still be provided to ICE.
As April 2010, biometric identification has been activated in 169 jurisdictions in 20 states. Since it’s unclear, which communities know about the program, the Guardian is posting the list here:
In Arizona: Cochise, Maricopa, Pima, Pinal, Santa Cruz, Yavapai and Yuma
In California Alameda, Contra Costa, Fresno, Imperial, Los Angeles, Monterey, Orange, Sacramento, San Bernadino, San Diego, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Solano, Sonoma, Stanislaus, and Ventura
In Delaware: Kent, New Castle and Sussex
In Florida: Brevard, Browar, Charlotte, Clay, Collier, Duval, Escambia, Highlands, Hillsborough, Lake, Leon, Manatee, Marion,Miami Dade, Monroe, Orange, Osceola, Palm Beach, Pinellas, Polk
Sarasota, St. Johns, St. Lucie, Volusia
In Georgia: Clayton, DeKalb and Gwinnett
In Hawaii: Oahu
In Illinois: DuPage, Kane, Lake, Madison, McHenry, St. Clair, Will and Winnebago
In Lousiana: Jefferson Parrish
In Maryland: Frederick, Prince George's, Queen Anne's and St. Mary's.
In Massachusetts: Suffolk
In Michigan: Wayne
In North Carolina: Brunswic, Buncombe, Cabarrus, Catawba, Columbus , Cumberland, Dare , Duplin, Durham, Gaston, Halifax, Harnett, Henderson, Jackson, Lee, Mecklenburg, New Hanover,
Orange, Transylvania, Union and Wake.
In New Mexico: Bernalillo, Dona Ana, Grant, Hidalgo, LunaOhio, Cuyahoga and Franklin
In Oklahoma: Oklahoma, TulsaOregon and Clackamas
In Pennsylvania: Bucks, Montgomery and Philadelphia
In Utah: Box Elder, Davis, Salt Lake, Utah and Weber
In Virginia: Alexandria City, Arlington, Fairfax, Fauquier, Henrico, Loudoun, Norfolk City, Prince William, Rappahannock. Richmond City and Virginia Beach City
In Texas: Bexar, Brazoria, Brewster, Brooks, Collin, Culberson, Dallas Dallas County Jail, Dallas Farmers Branch PD, Dallas Irving PD, Dallas and Collin Richardson PD, Dallas and Kaufman Mesquite PD, Dallas, Collin, Denton Carrollton PD, Denton, Dimmit, El Paso, Fort Bend, Galveston
Grayson, Harris, Hidalgo, Hudspeth, Hunt, Jeff Davis, Jefferson, Jim Wells, Johnson, Kaufman, Kenedy, Kinney, Kleberg, Maverick, McLennan, Montgomery, Nueces, Pecos, Presidio, Real, Starr, Tarrant, TDCJ, Terrell, Travis, Uvalde, Val Verde, Webb, Willacy, Williamson, Zapata and Zavala.