[In]Secure Communities: A Brief History of Tearing Up Families

Today DHS will have a public hearing on secure communities in Chicago, at 6pm, at 622 West Randolph. More info here.
[In]Secure Communities (SComm) is a federal deportation program started in October 2008 by the Obama Administration. Its purpose is to have local law enforcement share with Immigration Customs and Enforcement anyone they take in for any reason their information including fingerprints and immigration status. ICE initiate deportation proceedings against anyone undocumented.
The three stages of SComm are identification, arrest or booking into ICE custody, and removal.People taken into ICE custody are divided up into three levels: Level 1: those convicted of serious offenses; Level 2 : less serious offenses; and Level 3: any other minor conviction and those with no criminal record.SComm was presented to counties and communities as a voluntary program initiated after counties/states signed a contract, or a Memorandum of Agreement. This means if counties/states so choose they can opt out of the program. Internal emails within ICE have shown there was much confusion over whether the program was actually voluntary.As of June 2011, SComm has been active in over 1417 jurisdictions.

As of May 31 more than 260, 000 people were taken in by ICE as a result of SComm nationwide. Over 100,000 have been deported through this program. 1 in every 4 people caught through Secure Communities have not been convicted of a crime. The ratio is higher in specific states and counties. In Illinois alone, 78% of the people caught through SComm are noncriminals or had only minor offenses (like minor traffic violations). The number is the same in Palm Beach, Florida. In Jefferson County, LA, that number jumps to 89%. In the first seven weeks of SComm taking affect in New York, 80% of individuals arrested had no criminal history.

In August 2010, the National Day Labor Organizing Network, with other organizations, released documents they recieved from ICE showing that 79% of people deported through SComm were noncriminals or had minor offenses.

It’s clear that SComm is not concerned with catching the worst of the worst, but merely with increasing deportation numbers despite the catastrophic affect it has on families and communities. Victims of crime, particularly of domestic violence, have found themselves detained by ICE through SComm after calling the police. Immigrant communities have become more hesitant in reporting crimes.

In May of 2010, Sheriff Michael Hennessey of San Francisco sent a letter to ICE and CA’s attorney general asking for a way to opt out of the community-devastating program. His requests were denied.

In July of 2010, DC opted out of SComm.

In May 2011, Governor Quinn of IL terminates the agreement with ICE making IL the first state to opt out of SComm. In June SF Sherrif Hennessey announces policy to release undocumented immigrants convicted of low level crimes, defying SComm and ICE. In the same month, New York suspends SComm and Massachusetts refuses the program and Boston threatens to quit the program altogether. States and counties were sending an unequivocal message to ICE: SComm is a broken program and its making our communities less secure.

On August 5, 2011, in a gutsy and outrageous move, ICE declared that all previous contracts and agreements have been terminated, no state can opt out of SComm, and that the program is mandatory. ICE is either deaf or blind or both, to not see the devastating effect SComm has had on families and not hear the communities’ outcry against it.

Currently, a DHS and SComm task force is holding public hearings in multiple cities including Chicago. To watch the powerful response from LA, check out this video:

On August 17, the immigrant communities of Chicago will surely give an equally powerful response and drive home the message: Terminate the program that’s left our communities torn and insecure.

Prepared by: Alaa Mukahhal

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