Responding to the concerns of advocates and elected officials alike, the Obama administration this afternoon announced minor, and largely meaningless, reforms to the Secure Communities deportation program. By doing so, the Obama administration has turned deaf ears to the objections to Secure Communities voiced by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, the governors of Illinois and Massachusetts, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and law enforcement officials and civil rights advocates across the country.
“Today’s announcement on Secure Communities is nothing more than window dressing on a fundamentally flawed program,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic is not going to save this sinking program.”
Under Secure Communities, everyone who is arrested and fingerprinted by local police has their biometric information checked against Immigration and Customs Enforcement databases. If there is a match – whether correct or not – that individual could be subject to immigration detention, including hundreds or thousands of miles away from home, and deportation. On June 1, 2011 Governor Cuomo suspended implementation of Secure Communities in New York, finding that “based on evidence to date, it appears the program in New York is failing in [achieving its goals] and is actually undermining law enforcement.”
“You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig,” said NYCLU Advocacy Director Udi Ofer. “Even with today’s cosmetic changes, Secure Communities will continue to tear families apart, invite racial profiling and create distrust between police and immigrant communities.”
During the period of January 11, 2011 to April 30, 2011, when Secure Communities was in place in New York, 73 percent of New Yorkers deported by immigration officials through Secure Communities were not convicted of a crime. Sixty-one percent of New Yorkers arrested through Secure Communities had not been convicted of a crime.
Some of the changes announced today by the Department of Homeland Security include:
- Creating an advisory committee to review the deportation of minor traffic offenders through Secure Communities
- Video training for local law enforcement agencies on Secure Communities
- New detainer forms
- Protections for victims of domestic violence
- Greater prosecutorial discretion for immigration officials