Improvements to Secure Communities Program

On Friday, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced key improvements to the Secure Communities program:
  • Advisory Committee & Minor Traffic Offenses: ICE is creating a new advisory committee that will advise the Director of ICE on ways to improve Secure Communities, including making recommendations on how to best focus on individuals who pose a true public safety or national security threat. This panel will be composed of chiefs of police, sheriffs, state and local prosecutors, court officials, ICE agents from the field and community and immigration advocates. The first report of this advisory committee will be delivered to the Director within 45 days and will provide recommendations on how ICE can adjust the Secure Communities program to mitigate potential impacts on community policing practices, including how to implement policies stopping the removal of individuals charged with, but not convicted of, minor traffic offenses who have no other criminal history or egregious immigration violations.

  • Prosecutorial Discretion: ICE Director Morton has issued a new memo providing guidance for ICE law enforcement personnel and attorneys regarding their authority to exercise discretion when appropriate—authority designed to help ICE better focus on meeting the priorities of both the agency and the Secure Communities program to use limited resources to target criminals and those that put public safety at risk. This memo also directs the exercise of prosecutorial discretion to ensure that victims of and witnesses to crimes are properly protected. The memo clarifies that the exercise of discretion is inappropriate in cases involving threats to public safety, national security and other agency priorities. The memo can be read here.

  • Training for States: ICE and the DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) have developed a new training program for state and local law enforcement agencies to provide more information for state and local law enforcement about how Secure Communities works and how it relates to laws governing civil rights. The first set of training materials can be accessed here.

  • Protecting Victims & Witnesses of Crimes: At the direction of Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, ICE, in consultation with CRCL, has developed a new policy specifically to protect victims of domestic violence and other crimes and to ensure these crimes continue to be reported and prosecuted. This policy directs ICE officers to exercise appropriate discretion to ensure victims and witnesses to crimes are not penalized by removal. ICE is also working to develop additional tools that will help identify people who may be a victim, witness, or member of a vulnerable class so officers can exercise appropriate discretion. The memo can be read here.

  • Detainer Policy: ICE has revised the detainer form that ICE sends to local jurisdictions to emphasize the longstanding guidance that state and local authorities are not to detain an individual for more than 48 hours. The form also requires local law enforcement to provide arrestees with a copy, which has a number to call if they believe their civil rights have been violated.

  • Data Collection: ICE and CRCL have created a new complaint system whereby individuals or organizations who believe civil rights violations connected to Secure Communities have occurred can file a complaint. For example, CRCL will investigate complaints of ethnic discrimination by policing jurisdictions for which Secure Communities has been activated, and DHS will take steps to ensure that bias or other abuses do not affect immigration enforcement.

  • Statistical Review: ICE and CRCL have created an ongoing quarterly statistical review of the program to examine data for each jurisdiction where Secure Communities is activated to identify effectiveness and any indications of potentially improper use of the program. Statistical outliers in local jurisdictions will be subject to an in-depth analysis and DHS and ICE will take appropriate steps to resolve any issues.
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