May 2, 2012, Washington, D.C. -- Rights Working Group, a coalition of more than 330 grassroots and national human rights groups condemns Friday’s announcement of a so-called policy reform by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which indicated the agency would not adopt the major recommendations issued by a task force it created last year to examine problems with Secure Communities.
On Friday, John Sandweg Counselor to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano announced that under its new policy Immigration and Customs Enforcement might only issue detainers for undocumented people arrested for minor traffic offenses, after conviction for those offenses, if they do not fall under any of DHS’ other immigration enforcement priorities. (In states where Secure Communities has been activated, fingerprints of people arrested are submitted to DHS databases and if a suspected immigration violation turns up, ICE issues a detainer to hold the person for processing on immigration charges.)
“After two years of complaints throughout the nation about myriad violations of civil and human rights caused by Secure Communities, it is unacceptable that this minor tweak is all DHS could manage to come up with,” said Huang. “The so-called policy change amounts to nothing more than a poorly conceived public relations gimmick, and does not address any of the substantive problems identified by the task force, state and local governments, and civil society.”
Over the past two years, DHS heard significant opposition to Secure Communities from local and state officials, members of Congress, human rightsgroups, immigrant rights groups and faith groups and responded by forming the Homeland Security Advisory Council Task Force on Secure Communities to investigate problems with the program, such as racial profilng. Half of the members of the task force called for the suspension or termination of Secure Communities when it concluded its work last fall.
Huang said the minor reform announced Friday fails to address the fact that Secure Communities opens the door to racial profiling and makes communities less safe.
“Secure Communities has no safeguards to protect communities from racial profiling,” she said. “When local police are charged with enforcing immigration law, it increases fear in immigrant communities of having any contact with law enforcement, making it much harder to gain community trust,” she said.
The Obama administration plans to activate Secure Communities in all states by 2013.
“Implementing Secure Communities nationwide will lead to a continued racial profiling and continued constitutional and human rights violations against communities of color,” Huang said.
Rights Working Group calls on the administration to suspend Secure Communities in jurisdictions with a documented record of racial profiling including jurisdictions where the U.S. Department of Justice is conducting a pattern or practice discriminatory policing. In addition, the program should also be terminated in states with anti-immigration laws that encourage racial profiling.