Update: ICE Head John Morton will speak will Illinois officials Friday, May 6 to discuss how ICE could improve the Secure Communities program. The Huffington Post reported that DHS has confirmed that the agency will not allow the state to stop sharing fingerprinting information.
Meanwhile, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus has asked President Obama to suspend the program. According to the LA Times, the letter addressed concerns saying that “evidence reveals not only a striking dissonance between the program’s stated purpose of removing dangerous criminals and its actual effect; it also suggests that [Secure Communities] may endanger the public, particularly among communities of color.”
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn informed officials with Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) on Wednesday that state police will no longer participate in the federal government’s fingerprint sharing program called Secure Communities. His decision to terminate the state’s memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the agency marks the first time a state has withdrawn from the program and comes on the heels of growing frustration from local officials over its implementation.
“With this termination of the MOA, ISP (Illinois State Police) will play no role in Secure Communities, either actively or as a pass-through for information,” Quinn stated. “As ISP is a necessary party under the current Secure Communities process, with this termination, no new counties Illinois can be activated and those counties that were previously activated, for their information to pass through ISP to ICE, must be deactivated and removed from the Secure Communities program.”
According to his letter to Acting Assistant Secure Communities Director Marc Rapp, Quinn had suspended the program in the state on Nov. 9, 2010, pending a review – only a year after it was implemented. Neither Illinois nor federal officials were able to resolve the state’s concerns, even when ICE proposed a new MOA.
Quinn also stated that Secure Communities was not on target with its mandate of identifying individuals who have been “convicted” of “serious criminal offenses,” adding that in Illinois “more than 30 percent of those deported from the United States, under the program, have never been convicted of any crime” based on federal statistical data compiled through Feb. 28, 2011.
Quinn’s letter was sent to ICE, the same day that the Illinois State Legislature was to debate the Smart Enforcement Act, which would allow counties to opt-out of the program.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) praised Quinn’s decision to terminate the state’s agreement.
“Leadership on issues such as these is made all the more difficult because of the vitriolic and political nature of the ongoing debate on immigration.” Gutierrez wrote. “You, however, recognize that it is not in Illinois best interest to play politics with public safety.”
Despite Illinois’ termination, ICE continues to defend Secure Communities, which is implemented in nearly 1,300 counties and is suppose to be implemented nationwide by 2013. Twenty-six of Illinois’ 102 counties are enrolled in the program.
“ICE’s goal is to enhance public safety by removing those illegally in our country who are also breaking criminal laws,” said ICE Spokesperson Nicole Navas. “ICE will work with the State of Illinois to meet that goal.”
This isn’t the first time Illinois has been in the news regarding the program. In March, the Chicago Tribune released a study suggesting that McHenry County Sheriff deputies under-reported Hispanics subjected to traffic stops by mislabeling their race, raising concerns about racial profiling. Meanwhile, the Chicago News Cooperative reported that federal immigration officials pressed reluctant local officials such as Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley and Cooky County Sheriff Tom Dart to participate in the Secure Communities program. This was even after officials cited sanctuary ordinances that restrict local police from carrying out immigration-related enforcement.
According to one email in April 26, 2010:
“Due to the lack of response from IL SIB, I phoned Capt [redacted] today. She informed me that Cook Co. PO and SO would like to be activated (the Chicago PD did not want to participate), however; there is a county ordinates that prevents them from participating. According to Capt.[redacted] the County choice not to respond in writing, therefore, lllinois legal has advised the state not respond in writing either. We need to discuss the lack of response from the counties in the future. After review Vincent’s email I wonder if the lack of response being considered a GO is the way to move forward!”
(Click to view a chronological timeline of ICE-Cook County discussions on Secure Communities implementation.)
These correspondences are based on internal documents via litigation from the v National Day Laborer Organization, and the Immigration Justice Clinic of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.
Thousands of pages, many of them correspondences between ICE officials, reveal the government’s national public relations campaign to implement the program in resistant counties like in Illinois and California and as well as changing statements on whether the program jurisdictions or states could opt-out out of the program.
As a result, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) has asked the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility to investigate misconduct of immigration officials who she says misled the public with dishonest information on Secure Communities. In addition
It is unclear what ICE’s next step will be, but advocates like Sunita Patel of the Center for Constitutional Rights say that ICE should honor decisions made by states who decide not to participate rather than render MOA’s meaningless. This is a leap from individual local counties seeking to opt out.
“This shows that state officials can stand up to the federal government,” Patel said. “They can decide what’s best for their constituents, not what’s best for the federal authorities. It’s very courageous.”