Should victims of crimes and domestic violence be arrested and deported? ICE thinks so. And has institutionalized it in the ICE ACCESS program called Secure Communities.
In July 2010, a Chinese immigrant in California called the police for help in a domestic violence case, but instead of receiving the help she needed, she was arrested. Pursuant to Secure Communities (or S-Comm), her fingerprints were immediately sent to ICE and she was transferred into ICE custody even though no charges were filed against her.
Secure Communities is an initiative of the Department of Homeland Security that allows Immigration and Customs Enforcement to run the immigration status of every individual that is arrested by local law enforcement—whether or not they are charged with a crime—and transfer into ICE custody those who are found to be in the country undocumented.
The Way it Works
When local law enforcement sends fingerprints of arrested individuals to the Department of Justice to run criminal background checks, the DoJ in turn sends those fingerprints to ICE to compare them against immigration status. If an individual is in the country without permission, the person is transferred into ICE custody, even if the person is not charged with a crime. Because the real partnership is between the DoJ and ICE, local jurisdictions do not have any say over whether the fingerprints they send will be checked against immigration status.
ICE Misrepresents S-Comm to Local Communities
ICE has presented S-Comm to local law enforcement as a program focused on people convicted of a “serious criminal offense.” But reality shows otherwise.
The vast majority (79 percent) of the people deported due to S-Comm are non-criminals or were picked up for lower level offenses, such as traffic offenses or petty juvenile mischief. According to ICE’s own data, since the program was initiated, more than a quarter (28 percent) of the people transferred to ICE custody through S-Comm have no criminal record whatsoever.
In many jurisdictions, the percent of people transferred to ICE under S-Comm with no criminal record whatsoever is above 50%. Notably, jurisdictions with high racial prejudice and a history of targeting Latino communities (like Maricopa County in AZ and Travis County in Texas) are counted in the list.
In the case of immigrants with a criminal record, a majority of the cases were low level offenses, including traffic violations including driving without a license.
Despite the numerous problems with the program, ICE hasn’t provided local communities in objection to the program with a way of not participating. “We do not see this as an opt-in, opt-out program,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano during an October 6 DHS press conference, confirming that local jurisdictions cannot opt-out of the Secure Communities program. This came after a number of jurisdictions around the nation voted to withdraw from the program and then found no way of doing so.
Where to From Here
LUPE, along with the immigration working group of the Equal Voice Network, will join the rising national tide calling on ICE to provide an opt-out from the program. Additionally, we will begin to work with local law enforcement to decrease the harmful effects of the program until an opt-out is made available.
If you would like to join this campaign, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org