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Vol. 75/No. 20      May 23, 2011

‘Secure Communities’ used
to push back workers rights
(front page)
The Barack Obama administration is aggressively expanding its “Secure Communities” program, a major component of the government’s increasing links between federal agencies and local cops, and part of the broader assault on the rights of working people.

Under Secure Communities the fingerprints of every person booked into custody—whether or not they are ever convicted—are sent to the FBI, which forwards them to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to be checked against its databases. The DHS then has the authority to instruct local cops to detain an individual it says may be in violation of immigration law until they are taken into custody by immigration authorities, even if they haven’t been charged with a crime.

A related, expanding federal program, commonly referred to 287(g), gives designated local cops the authority to enforce immigration laws.

The Obama administration’s goal is to have Secure Communities up and running in every U.S. municipality by 2013. The program, begun in 2008 under President George W. Bush, is currently operating in 40 percent of the country, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The ICE website describes Secure Communities as a program “working to better identify, detain and ultimately remove dangerous criminal aliens from your community.”

In reality, it is one of the methods used to arbitrarily round up and deport immigrant workers and lays a basis for using the same tools against whomever the government decides to target. In the process government agencies are amassing biometric data and other information on tens of millions of people into rapidly growing databases it claims are needed to fight “crime” and protect “national security.”

Illinois governor Pat Quinn announced May 4 that state police will no longer participate in the program. Almost one-third of all those deported in Illinois under the program were not convicted of a crime, the New York Times reported.

Quinn asked ICE to disband the operation in the 26 Illinois communities where it had been established. ICE replied it will review the program to see if there has been any “misconduct.”

In an April 25 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, DHS secretary Janet Napolitano said state and local governments cannot “exclude themselves” from Secure Communities. “This whole opt-in, opt-out thing was a misunderstanding,” she said, referring to initial ICE statements that implied participation was voluntary. An unnamed DHS official reiterated this, stating that “Secure Communities is not voluntary and never has been,” the April 25 Los Angeles Times reported.

That paper gave the example of an undocumented woman named Norma who was beaten by her companion. She called the police. They decided to arrest both Norma and her companion. So now she’s in ICE’s hands, because the cops, who decided not to charge her with a crime, complied with an ICE request to hold her until immigration cops could pick her up for lacking papers.

In California the governments of San Francisco and Santa Clara have asked to be dropped from Secure Communities. Since 2009, when the program started in that state, 78,407 workers have been arrested by ICE and 38,828 deported.

In New York, 38 state legislators and 19 members of the New York City Council have sent letters to Gov. Andrew Cuomo asking him to take the state out of Secure Communities. Currently 24 of 62 New York counties are participating.

As of February in New York, “about 80 percent of the immigrants detained as a result of Secure Communities had no record, advocates said,” the New York Times reported.
Related articles:
Not ‘secure’ for the working class  
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