By Mary Moreno
One of the major reasons deportations have surged under the Obama administration is the expansion of the so-called Secure Communities program. Under Secure Communities, everyone who’s picked up by the police, be it for traffic, minor or major violations, has their fingerprints sent to DHS by the FBI to be checked for legal status. This program has led to the deportations of people who were never charged with a crime or who were accused, but not convicted, of offenses.
DHS used to insist that the program was voluntary. DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano even asserted this “fact” to members of Congress. One congressional member to hear this from Napolitano, Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California, is calling for an investigation of the program after documents released under a Freedom of Information Act request showed that the program, in fact, is not voluntary, opting out is not an option.
Lofgren told the LA Times:
“It is inescapable that the [Department of Homeland Security] was not honest with the local governments or with me” about whether local jurisdictions must participate, said Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose). “You can’t have a government department essentially lying to local government and to members of Congress. This is not OK.”
This was DHS’ comeback to the LA Times:
A Department of Homeland Security official said in a statement that “Secure Communities is not voluntary and never has been. Unfortunately, this was not communicated as clearly as it should have been to state and local jurisdictions by ICE when the program began. Thanks to outreach with local jurisdictions and members of Congress, we have since made the parameters of the program clear to all stakeholders involved.”
DHS’ defense is that it doesn’t need local approval to implement the program since it is essentially just two federal agencies sharing information. But as the LA Times points out:
…officials sought for nearly two years to cajole local jurisdictions to support the program -– before telling them they had no choice but to participate.
We’re glad to hear Lofgren is up in arms about this. We are with her in wanting to know why DHS deceived Congress, the country and the communities who were forced to implement the program.
Also worth noting is that the documents released under the Freedom of Information Act revealed “that half of the immigration holds issued since the inception of the Secure Communities program have been for non-criminals or those charged with misdemeanors — not the violent criminals the program has purported to prioritize.”
The Campaign Change Takes Courage is calling on the President to end the program, or at the very least, stop its expansion until the following issues can be clarified: make participation optional and only share the fingerprints of those convicted of crimes.
Join our efforts to reform ICE by signing our petition: Changetakescourge.org.