Louisville, KY- Immigration advocates have long criticized Secure Communities, one of President Obama’s immigration enforcement policies, charging that the program causes unnecessary deportations. That could soon change as Secure Communities has become part of the President’s review of DHS immigration policies.
The Washington Post reported that law enforcement officials met with President Obama and Department of Homeland Security Secretary, Jeh Johnson, to discuss the controversial program, and what changes could be made to improve it.
Law enforcement agencies that choose to participate in Secure Communities take the fingerprints of individuals who arrested and suspected of being the country illegally and enter those fingerprints into a federal database to determine if an immigrant is deportable. If ICE decides an immigrant is deportable, they can request that local law enforcement agencies hold that immigrant until they can be picked up by federal agents.
The main purpose of Secure Communities is to identify and remove undocumented immigrants who have been convicted of serious crimes—murder, aggravated assault, sexual assault, drug trafficking—and pose a threat to public safety.
The law enforcement effort has been successful in capturing and removing dangerous criminals, but immigration activists say that the program also targets immigrants with minor offenses such as disturbing the peace. This, advocates say, leads to unnecessary deportations and broken families. Just how many is a matter of debate, but they have pushed back strongly against the program and now local law enforcement officials are doing the same.
Secure Communities is also a burden on local law enforcement agencies who must use their own resources to track down and detain immigrants flagged by the program. Austin, Texas, Police Chief Art Acevedo told the Huffington Post, “We became cops to go after gang bangers” and “people who are doing harm to our society,” not “to go chase a nanny that is watching our child.”
This year alone several counties in Oregon, three counties in Colorado, two counties in Washington state, along with the City of Baltimore have decided to no longer participate in Secure Communities nor honor immigration detainers.
How this overhaul of Secure Communities will take shape is unclear, but law enforcement officials emerged from the meetings and told reporters they expected to see a “reboot” of Secure Communities. The DHS however declined to comment about the specifics of the meeting.
Last month, President Obama ordered a review of immigration policies last month in lieu of immigration reform. He requested that DHS Secretary Johnson review policies and determine which how they can be changed to slow deportations of undocumented immigrants who, aside from being in the U.S. illegally which is a civil violation, are law-abiding citizens or only guilty of a very minor offense.
So far, Johnson has not issued any formal recommendations, but has hinted that Deferred Deportation for Childhood Arrivals could be extended for the parents and siblings of DREAMERS. Sources also said Johnson discussed with them the possibility of offering deportation relief to immigrants who may a missed appearance before an immigration court, gained illegal entry or re-entry or failed to comply with orders of removal. Even without immigration reform, policies can be changed to benefit immigrants.
Keeping track of these policy changes and understanding how they impact a person can be nearly impossible. That’s why many immigrants turn to immigration attorneys to assist them with a wide range of immigration-related services from applying for a visa or building a deportation defense.