Let the ICE picket begin

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Members of the San Francisco Immigrant Rights Defense Committee launched a picket outside US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)’s Detention and Removal Operations office at 630 Sansome Street today to decry the activation of Secure Communities, which they describe as a “dangerous police-ICE collaboration program that threatens public safety.”

“In the wake of massive protests this weekend against Arizona’s anti-immigrant law, a broad coalition of immigrant rights advocates will stage a protest Tuesday in San Francisco against the implementation of a new police-ICE collaboration initiative which will harm public safety, the so-called 'Secure' Communities or S-Comm program,” SFIRDC’s press release states.

Concerned community members plan to form a picket line holding placards of enlarged fingerprints and multi-lingual messages “to expose the danger the program poses to the community."

 “If we oppose Arizona’s SB1070, then we cannot stand aside while a dangerous policy with disturbing similarities to SB1070 is forced on our own city,” Carolina Morales of Community United Against Violence stated. “S-Comm gives dangerous discretion to police officers to falsely arrest or overcharge immigrant residents, who would then be automatically reported for deportation.”

The picket comes as a veto-proof majority of eight SF Supervisors stands poised to vote next week (there is no Board meeting today) on a resolution calling on local law enforcement to opt-out of S-Comm, noting that the policy “puts at risk even those subject to arrest for a minor infraction and those who did not commit any crime at all but were falsely arrested. “

To date, the Mayor’s Office has not indicated that Newsom has any concerns with the program.
But San Francisco Sheriff Michael Hennessey, who requested to opt out of the program, has stated that S-Comm "will widen the net (of people reported to ICE) excessively" and that ICE has a “record of secrecy."

Last year, the California Dept. of Justice signed a memorandum with ICE on the S-Comm program; the cover letter indicated that counties needed to agree to the program by signing a “statement of intent.” But last week, Attorney General Brown denied the Sheriff’s request to opt out, so community and legal advocates continue to explore their options.
 
 “The Attorney General is mistaken in believing that this program will only affect people who have already been apprehended and deported by ICE or charged with serious offenses,” said Francisco Ugarte, an immigrant rights attorney with Dolores Street Community Services.

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 According to ICE's own data, 5  percent of the people identified under the S-Comm program were U.S. citizens, and some 9 out of 10 of the total identified were charged with low level offenses, including property and traffic violations, not serious crimes.
And then there’s the fact that ICE’s data does not indicate whether those deported were actually found guilty of crimes, or were simply charged with crimes—a key distinction for anyone who professes to believe in human rights.

 “Our city’s families are living in fear that if they report a threat to their own safety, they or their family member may risk deportation, “ Nour Chammas with the Arab Resource and Organizing Center stated in SFIRDC’s press release. “This policy will tear at the very fabric of San Francisco’s rich and diverse culture."

And Bobbi Lopez of La Voz Latina observed that folks are working on a federal level for immigration reform because they know real solutions to a broken immigration system.  “However, we cannot just sit idly by and wait while ICE’s police collaboration schemes threaten our families daily,” Lopez warned. “ We are proud that city officials are standing with community members to halt this attack on our San Francisco community.” 

Today’s picket was called for by the following members of SFIRDC:
African Advocacy Network, Arab Resource and Organizing Center, Asian Law Caucus,
CARECEN, Causa Justa: Just Cause, Chinese for Affirmative Action, Chinese Progressive Association, Communities United Against Violence, Dolores Street Community Services, East Bay Alliance for Sustainable Economy, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Instituto Familiar de la Raza, La Raza Centro Legal / SF Day Labor Program, La Voz Parents Council, Mujeres Unidas y Activas, National Lawyers Guild SF Bay Area Chapter, People Organizing to Demand Environmental & Economic Rights, People Organized to Win Employment Rights, SF Pride at Work, and South of Market Community Action Network.