Saturday, August 13, 2011

ICE v. Colorado: Rogue Agency Rescinds Accountability to States around “Secure Communities” Dragnet Program

Federal Government Runs Over States and Immigrant Communities

Denver, CO--On August 5, 2011, the US Department of Homeland Security announced that it is unilaterally annulling the agreements between states and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) "Secure Communities" program, a fingerprint-sharing program between ICE and local police that in reality functions as a dragnet to detain and deport undocumented immigrants, including half a million non-criminal immigrants. The "memoranda of agreements" nullified by DHS had included provisions stating that states could terminate their participation in the program, as Illinois and New York had already done. Colorado was the the first state to negotiate amended language to the MOA, which was signed by former Governor Ritter in January 2011, including unique language to protect victims of crimes. The following is the statement of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition:

The Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition (CIRC) condemns DHS's unilateral action to annul ICE's agreements with states, including Colorado. These agreements provided a clear framework for the relationship between states and ICE regarding the "Secure Communities" program-including the right of the states to terminate their participation.

"From the beginning, the 'Secure Communities' program has been shrouded in secrecy," said Jessie Ulibarri of the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, "By rescinding the state agreements, DHS is once again acting in bad faith and eliminating accountability to states that have witnessed the overreach and damage wrought by this program."

The announcement comes as a DHS task force is reviewing the program, and about to launch a nationwide series of public hearings, calling into question the legitimacy and transparency of the entire oversight process.

The announcement also comes as new public data confirms that "Secure Communities" has strayed far from President Obama's stated immigration enforcement goal of "focusing primarily on criminals" and the statement in ICE's agreement with Colorado that the program would identify immigrants who have been "convicted of a serious criminal offense and are subject to removal." In Colorado, 77% of immigrants arrested by ICE under this program have no criminal convictions, or charged with of non-violent offenses.

"This unilateral nullification of state agreements is yet one more example of ICE acting as a rogue agency without any accountability to its stated enforcement priorities," said Julie Gonzales, CIRC Director of Organizing, "meanwhile the 'Secure Communities' program is tearing families apart and destroying trust in local policing efforts."

Adding further confusion, ICE has made misleading and confusing statements about whether local communities can opt out of the program, and proposed high-pressure political tactics to enlist reluctant jurisdictions. Last month, a federal judge hearing Freedom of Information Act litigation against ICE over "Secure Communities" concluded that "[t]here is ample evidence that ICE and DHS have gone out of their way to mislead the public about Secure Communities."

"DHS has yet to provide clear legal authority to support its claim that "Secure Communities" is federally mandated," said Hans Meyer, CIRC Policy Attorney, "CIRC questions whether any such legal authority exists, and believes that the program is vulnerable to legal challenge.

CIRC will continue to stand with community, faith, business and elected leaders and allies in their commitment to effective law enforcement while keeping hardworking immigrant families together and all communities safe-a commitment that flies in the face of the "Secure Communities" program.