AJC Statement on Secure Communities

AJC is deeply concerned that the Secure Communities program, as developed and applied by ICE, fails to focus enforcement efforts on the most dangerous criminals and potentially increases incidents of racial profiling. Even as we recognize that an effective enforcement program is critical to our national security, and that absent Congressional action ICE must create and implement enforcement programs, we also believe that immigration enforcement must be effective, fair and humane. The Secure Communities program, as currently applied, fails to meet all three of these critical requirements.

The Secure Communities program allows fingerprints submitted during the booking process in a local jail to be checked against both FBI criminal history records and DHS records to provide information to identify individuals in police custody and remove criminal aliens from the United States. According to ICE’s stated priorities, the Secure Communities program is intended to focus on identifying and apprehending “Priority 1” offenders, aliens who have been convicted of either aggravated felonies or two or more felonies. ICE states that it created these priority categories to focus enforcement efforts on best protecting national security and public safety, and securing the border. Yet, in practice, many of the undocumented immigrants who are detained and deported are “Priority 2” and “Priority 3” offenders. The detention and deportation of these individuals, many of whom are never even convicted of a crime, shows that ICE is failing to ensure that enforcement efforts under the program focus on protecting our national security and public safety from the most dangerous criminals.

Further, following implementation of the Secure Communities program, there appears to have been a disturbing increase in instances of racial profiling and unreported crimes in our neighborhoods. Moreover, there is the risk in areas that have instituted Secure Communities that individuals may be subjected to a pretextual arrest based on race or ethnicity, or because they are suspected of being in violation of immigration laws, so that they can be run through immigration databases once they are jailed. Also, we are concerned about local police being seen as immigration agents. If ICE maintains a presence—even a technological presence—in a local jail, members of the public are apt to associate the local law-enforcement agency with immigration enforcement and thus be less likely to report crimes, thereby making our communities and neighborhoods more dangerous.

From the inception of Secure Communities, there has been confusion and controversy arising from its designation as an “optional” enforcement program. Matters have only been made worse by the August 5, 2011 announcement by ICE that a state or local government’s ability to “opt-in” or “opt-out” has been eliminated. It is now entirely within the discretion of ICE which state and local governments must comply with this controversial program. This mandatory compliance will likely overwhelm already overextended state and local police authorities and risk destroying the fundamental relationships that police have so carefully cultivated with their communities.

For the foregoing reasons, AJC opposes the Secure Communities program as currently applied.

August 9, 2011
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