Illinois pulls out of Secure Communities

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As California considers reforming Secure Communities, Illinois announced today that it is terminating its involvement in the controversial federal immigration program. California and Illinois moves come in face of Washington D.C’s decision to opt out of S-Comm and Washington State's refusal to participate. And they test ICE’s claims that the program is mandatory, as other states watch these developments.

(UPDATE: Yesterday, I erroneously reported that New York State had refused to participate in S-Comm.That is not the case. New York State does allow jurisdictions to participate, they have a MOA with ICE, and 8 more counties just joined. I confused NY with Washington State, which has refused to join.)

In a May 4 letter to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn enclosed a notice from Illinois State Police (ISP) director Hiram Grau, notifying ICE that because of its indiscriminate use of the "Secure Communities" deportation program, Illinois is terminating the November 2009 S-Comm Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between ISP and U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s ICE."

“The stated purpose of the program, as set forth in the MOA, is to “identify, detain and remove from the United States aliens who have been convicted of ¬serious criminal offenses and are subject to removal (emphasis added), ICE’s statistics on the Secure Communities program, compiled through February 28, 2011, reveal that the implementation of the Secure Communities program in Illinois is contrary to the stated purpose of the MOA: more than 30 percent of those deported from the United States, under the program, have never been convicted of ¬any crime, much less a serious one. In fact, by ICE’s own measure, less than 20 percent of those who have been deported from Illinois under the program have ever been convicted of a serious crime.”

Quinn notes that on November 9, 2010, his office directed ISP to suspend S-Comm until a review of the program and its adherence to the MOA could be conducted. “Upon evaluation of data provided by ICE to the State of Illinois, conversations between ICE and members of my administration, and a new, proposed MOA from ICE, it’s clear that the conflict between the MOA as signed by ISP and ICE’s implementation of the program cannot be resolved to the State of Illinois’ satisfaction.”

“With this termination, no new counties in Illinois can be activated and those counties that were previously activated... must be deactivated and removed from the Secure Communities program,” Quinn concludes.

Illinois’ move comes as California Assemblymember Tom Ammiano’s Transparency and Responsibility Using State Tools (TRUST) Act passes out of the California Assembly’s Public Safety Committee, next stop appropriations. The TRUST Act would allow local governments to opt out of S-Comm or set standards for jurisdictions that chose to participate. Joining Ammiano as co-sponsors of the TRUST Act are Assemblymembers Gil Cedillo (D-LA) and Bill Monning (D- Carmel) and Sen. Leland Yee (D-SF). Endorsers include 80 organizations, local governments and elected officials, including the Santa Clara and Santa Cruz County Boards, San Francisco Sheriff Michael Hennessey, who blew the whistle on S-Comm in San Francisco a year ago, and has endorsed San Francisco Sup. Ross Mirkarimi in the sheriff’s race this fall, retired Sacramento Police Chief Arturo Venegas, and civil rights and faith groups, including the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence, the California Labor Federation, the San Bernardino Catholic Diocese and Equality California.

Advocates hope Ammiano’s TRUST Act will restore balance and accountability to the nation’s immigration system. They charge that S-Comm’s misleading focus, over-broad reach and lack of transparency have eroded trust between police and immigrant communities, making victims and witnesses to crimes reluctant to come forward.

The TRUST Act would make S-Comm an “opt-in” program so local governments can tailor their participation based on local needs.The bill would set safeguards for municipalities that do elect to participate in S-Comm to guard against racial profiling and would ensure that children and domestic violence survivors are not swept up by S-Comm. The TRUST act also upholds the right to a day in court by only reporting for deportation individuals convicted - not merely accused - of crimes.

These moves come fresh in the heels of Congressman Luis Gutierrez’s April 27 appearance in San Francisco, where he was joined by San Francisco Sups David Campos and John Avalos, and Board President David Chiu in asking President Obama for administrative relief from rapidly increasing deportations.
“We need to stop deporting parents and ripping apart all families, including same-sex partners, “ wrote Chiu, Campos and mayoral candidate Avalos. “We need to stop deporting students who would have been eligible for the DREAM ACT. Last year, the U.S. deported an estimated 400,000 immigrants, the highest number of deportations per year in the history of our nation. We must allow our counties to opt out of  “S-Comm” (Secure Communities), which is making our communities less secure, and we support Congressman Gutierrez in these courageous requests. Immigrants are part of the fabric of our communities, and we need to fix our immigration system so everyone who lives here can continue to live as a full member of society without constant fear of safety, security, and livelihood being jeopardized at any moment.”