Civil rights groups demand Secure-Comm documents from ICE


In a turnabout from the usual immigration-related situation (in which ICE demands documents from immigrants) civil rights groups in Washington, DC. Arlington, VA. Santa Clara, CA. and San Francisco are requesting the release of documents concerning opt-out procedures in Immigration and Customs Enforcement's controversial "Secure Communities" program.

Signed by the Arlington Coalition Against "Secure Communities" (S-Comm) Program, Asian Law Caucus, Asian Law Alliance, Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center, Causa Justa: Just Cause (CJJC), Center for Employment Training- San Jose, Central American Resource Center, Chinese for Affirmative Action, Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto, Communities United Against Violence, DC Jobs with Justice, Empower DC, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Instituto Familiar de la Raza, La Raza Centro Legal , National Lawyers Guild San Francisco Bay Area Chapter, Plymouth Congregational UCC Board of Social Action, Sacred Heart Community Services, San Francisco Day Labor Program Services, Immigrant Rights, and Education Network, Silicon Valley Alliance for Immigration Reform, Silicon Valley DeBug, Somos Mayfair, Steering Committee for Immigration Reform, JFI San Jose Tenants and Workers United and Young Workers United, the statement that these groups released today reads as follows:

”We are four municipalities that have formally requested to opt-out of the federal immigration enforcement, "Secure Communities" (i.e., "S-Comm") program,” their press release stated. “We did so after participating in town hall meetings, debate, testimony, research, and democratic processes that culminated with representatives in Washington DC, Santa Clara, California, Arlington, Virginia, and San Francisco clearly voting to opt-out of sharing information with ICE. “

“We did so because we believe in preserving public safety for everyone in our diverse cities, and also because we reject a program that disguises a record number of deportations (392,862) as a safety initiative rather than a humanitarian and moral crisis.”

”To be clear, our counties never 'opted-in' to this dangerous ICE program in the first place. This program, which has been shrouded in secrecy, was imposed on our counties without the input of our local government, communities, local law enforcement and in the case of San Francisco against their explicit written requests. Now that Washington DC has formally opted out, we ask that ICE immediately and without further delay let our counties and any other counties requesting to do so out of S-Comm.”

”We are committed to moving ahead with the opt out process despite ICE now contradicting itself and claiming the program is compulsory. We support CCR, NDLON, and Cordozo Law School going to court today to demand release of what ICE has refused to divulge. The emergency injunction filed today does what should be automatic in any democracy, it seeks to make public information on S-Comm and our ability to opt-out by stopping the sharing of any fingerprints by these jurisdictions with ICE.. This necessary injunction comes at the beginnings of negotiations with ICE and local jurisdictions scheduled for Nov. 5 to Nov. 9.”


October 7, 2010
Napolitano Confirms No Option to Withdraw from S-Comm

From the ILRC:

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano confirmed this week that Secure Communities, a program that provides federal immigration officials with fingerprint data from local police, is mandatory for local jurisdictions. “We don’t consider Secure Communities an opt in/opt out program,” Napolitano said, according to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman. Her statement was official confirmation of news The Washington Post broke last week: Despite allowing local communities to believe they could opt out of sharing fingerprints with ICE, DHS actually set up the program to go over their heads to get the information directly from the FBI.

Local law enforcement agencies share fingerprints of those they arrest with the FBI to detect fugitives. Some, though, do not want to share this information with immigration enforcement. Four communities — Washington, San Francisco, Santa Clara, Calif., and Arlington, Va. — have so far attempted to opt out of Secure Communities, arguing the program can damage trust in police and threaten public safety.

This is a marked change from previous statements from ICE and Napolitano herself. ICE laid out a process for opting out of the program in an August document called “Setting the Record Straight,” writing that communities could be removed from the “deployment plan” after meeting with state officials and ICE.

In a Sept. 7 letter to Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Napolitano confirmed the steps for communities to opt out of the process, even if she never used the words “opt out”:

A local law enforcement agency that does not wish to participate in the Secure Communities deployment plan must formally notify the Asisstant Director for the Secure Communities Program, David Venturella…. The agency must also notify the appropriate station identification bureau by mail, facsimile, or e-mail. If a local law enforcement agency chooses not to be activated in the Secure Communities deployment plan, it will be the responsibility of that agency to notify its local ICE field office of suspected criminal aliens.

It sounds like it’s optional there, but an ICE official confirmed to TWI today that communities can only opt out of receiving information back about the illegal immigrants they detain — not actually opting out of sharing the biometric information itself. As The Washington Post reported last week, Secure Communities is actually an information-sharing program between the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security. Communities cannot opt out of giving their data to the FBI, so they also cannot opt out of the data going to ICE.

That also directly contradicts previous statements from the government. Ronald Weich, assistant attorney general, restated Lofgren’s definition of “opting out” in another letter to the congresswoman, implying localities could, in fact, opt out (emphasis mine):

In your letter, you specifically asked for “a clear explanation of how local law enforcement agencies may opt out of Secure Communities by having the fingerprints they collect and submit to the SIBs checked against criminal, but not immigration, databases.” A local law enforcement agency that does not wish to participate in the Secure Communities deployment plan must formally notify the Assistant Director for the Secure Communities program at ICE and the appropriate state identification bureau (SIB).

Posted by Guest Bárbara Chelsai on Oct. 30, 2010 @ 2:10 pm