Hinojosa Amendment Replaces “Sanctuary Cities” Bill with Secure Communities as LA Times Breaks DHS Investigation into the Controversial Program

Ex S-Comm contractor spoke out implicating ICE officials in misrepresentation of the program

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn announced the state will withdraw from Secure Communities. Creative Commons/ChrisEaves.com

On Wednesday, DHS announced an investigation into the immigration enforcement program that claims to target serious convicted felons for deportation but has routinely swept up many undocumented immigrants not convicted of crimes or who committed minor offenses. The announcement of the investigation into the Secure Communities program came on the same day that the Texas Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee voted to replace “sanctuary cities” language in HB12 with legislation that expands the Secure Communities program.

The LA Times reported yesterday that the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General plans to investigate S-Comm to “determine the extent to which ICE uses the program to identify and remove dangerous criminal aliens from the United States.” By ICE’s own data, more than a quarter of those transferred to ICE custody under the program since its inception have been non-criminals despite its claim to target immigrants convicted of a “serious criminal offense.”

It is not surprising that Sen. Hinojosa and other state Senators are supporting the program given that ICE has routinely misrepresented the program to public officials. Hinojosa has maintained that the program focuses on people convicted of a “serious criminal offense.” In ICE’s MOA with the State Identification Bureau, ICE claims:

[S-Comm] is a comprehensive ICE initiative that focuses on the identification and removal of aliens who are convicted of a serious criminal offense and are subject to removal, including the utilization of advanced biometric and communications technology to share information among law enforcement agencies (LEAs) to identify, detain and remove from the United States aliens who have been convicted of a serious criminal offense and are subject to removal. [Emphasis added]

The phrase “serious criminal offense” is repeated various times throughout the MOA.

The reality is much different than ICE paints it, however.

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 more than a quarter (28 percent) of the people transferred to ICE custody through S-Comm have been non-criminals. Read more here (opens a PDF).

The LA Times story reports that a contractor responsible for much of the program’s expansion has spoken out and indicated a cover-up from the top on down. It is no wonder our Senator is advocating for the expansion of the program when ICE has routinely misrepresented the program to public officials from the outset.

Read the LA Times story here.

The reality is beginning to come through thanks to advocates’ Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and litigation. Before the lawsuit by The National Day Laborer Organization (NDLON), the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), and the Immigration Justice Clinic of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, very little information about the program was publicly available.

The public, especially our elected officials, deserve to know the extent to which the program targets non-criminal immigrants as well as the controversy surrounding ICE’s lack of transparency regarding the program. The State Legislature is on its way to enshrining in state law the controversial program without public officials or the public at large really understanding how the program works.

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