Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Governor Ritter to Sign on to Secure Communities Despite Widespread Opposition

Legal, victim protection, faith, law enforcement, advocacy, and community groups remain opposed to the Secure Communities program because the proposed memorandum does not address the program’s flaws

Denver, CO – Today, Governor Bill Ritter plans to sign a memorandum of agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to activate the flawed Secure Communities program in Colorado. Secure Communities is a misguided immigration enforcement program that shares the biometric data of persons that are arrested and fingerprinted with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). In reality, the program functions as an overbroad immigration dragnet that undercuts community policing efforts, destroys families, and drives victims and witnesses of crime underground.

Hans Meyer, Policy Director for the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, explained, “The proposed modifications to the program do little, if anything, to limit the overbroad Arizona-style dragnet effect of Secure Communities or protect victims or witnesses of crime from being reported to ICE. The only certain outcomes will be to destroy community policing efforts while failing to address the most insidious aspects of ICE’s secretive mass deportation program.”

“Countless elected leaders, law enforcement, professional associations, and grassroots organizations throughout Colorado oppose the Secure Communities dragnet because it moves Colorado one step closer to the destructive policies of Arizona, where local law enforcement officers are used as de facto immigration agents.”

Diego Hunt, President of the Colorado Hispanic Bar Association, commented, “The proposed memorandum does not address the inevitable harm the program will cause to the already tenuous relationship between law enforcement and the State’s Latino community – a concern the CHBA and other organizations have previously raised with the Governor.”

David Felice, Chief of Police in Durango, said: “Without substantive modifications to limit the scope of the program and ensure local control over participation, we are concerned that Secure Communities may have a negative effect on public safety in our community.”

‘Jazmin,’ an undocumented survivor of domestic abuse, said, "With a law like Secure Communities in place, I won't call the police anymore – not just for a crime against me, but for a crime against anyone. When I was a victim, I was more scared of the police than the person that I was reporting."

Denver City Councilman Paul Lopez added, “Without protections to limit the scope of the program and ensure local control over participation, Secure Communities may have a negative effect on public safety and unknown fiscal impacts to state and local governments.”

Art Way, Racial Justice Organizer with the Colorado Progressive Coalition, said, “Unfortunately, due to the prejudicial aspect of the immigration debate, deportation programs such as Secure Communities can on occasion be fertile ground for impermissible factors such as race and nationality to permeate actions of law enforcement.”

Chris Newman, Legal Director for the National Day Labor Organizing Network said, “"In the past, ICE has used secrecy and misrepresentation to induce states' participation in the program. Colorado's MOA is so disappointing because Governor Ritter, a former prosecutor, appeared to be rising above difficult politics in an earnest effort get a good policy for the state. Instead, he appears to have capitulated to ICE’s pressure."

Organizer Judith Marquez from Rights for All People concluded, "The fact that Governor Ritter is signing on to Secure Communities is not just unfortunate, it's irresponsible. We call on the incoming Hickenlooper administration to immediately rescind this agreement until ICE is serious about addressing the flaws of the program.”