Secure Communities Reforms Disappoint Advocates

John Morton, ICE Assistant Director

Late Friday afternoon in a conference call with reporters, ICE unveiled a list of reforms to its controversial “Secure Communities” program.

“We are listening to what people have said, what various state officials and community officials have raised, and we’re tyring to address those concerns head on,” said John Morton, ICE Assistant Secretary. “The announcements we are making today are on the whole effective immediately.”

But immigrant rights advocates called the changes “lipstick” and continued to call for a moratorium.

“The Secure Communities program is a Frankenstein,” said Pablo Alvarado, Director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. “It doesn’t need make-up or cosmetic changes. It needs to be stopped immediately.”

We’ve summarized the new developments below and linked to the reforms ICE has posted online.


New reforms announced by ICE Director John Morton and DHS Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Margo Schlanger announced new reforms to Secure Communities:

1. New agency policy is not to begin deportation proceedings against victims and witnesses of crimes, and individuals pursuing legitimate civil liberties lawsuits. An emphasis will be placed on domestic violence victims. (Click to see more.)

2. New agency policy will grant authority for prosecutorial discretion to ICE attorneys in immigration court, independent of ICE charging officers who initiate deportation proceedings.

3. ICE will issue a new detainer form with several changes. It will make clear that person can be detained for limit of 48 hours, and mandate a detainee receive a copy of the form, which will be in 7 languages and provide a phone number to call with concerns. The detainer will also be able to indicate it should only go into effect upon conviction. (Click to see the new detainer form.)

4. ICE is creating an advisory committee of a broad coalition of stakeholders including law enforcement and immigrant advocates that will report to Morton. It will look at how ICE should deal with deporting people who are charged with minor traffic offenses, such as no operators license, and consider whether they should only be deportable upon conviction.

5. ICE will also create a program to protect civil rights and civil liberties. One of its first projects is a “Secure Communities 101” video to train state and local police in their responsibilities to protect civil rights. (Click to see the training plan.) It will launch a quarterly statistical oversight tool to look for signs something may be discriminatory with how the program is being implemented and will encourage police to tell ICE if someone is a crime victim or witness. (Click to see the new complaint protocol and an overview of CRCL/ICE Quarterly Statistical Monitoring of Secure Communities or the video.)


Additional comments from ICE:

Morton: “What this is really about is who we remove from the country. This is about how do we prioritize use of the limited resources that we have and making sure we focus on those people it makes the most sense to remove under a program of smart and effective enforcement.”

Despite repeated references to ICE’s intention to use the program to deport serious criminal offenders, Morton said ICE also prioritizes the deportation of people who have recently come across the border illegally, people who are egregious immigration violators, and people who have final order of removal.

Morton: “This year, for the first time in the agency’s history we’re going to remove more criminals from the country than non-criminals.”


Twitter was abuzz with reactions during and after the conference call on reforms to the Secure Communities program.

Can someone ask this of Morton: why turn SCOMM on in Georgia? their Arizona copycat law is scheduled to start 7/1

Predictions: ‘my bad, f- you.’

Holy smokes! “DHS Secure Communities Civil Rights Training”? That’s like 4 oxymorons combined into one.

More doublespeak from ICE on “Secure Communities.”

2 years later DHS gonna do training of law enforcement to avoid racial profiling. 2yrs too late! Moratorium now!!

“Training” on civil rights but no discipline or monitoring to find out if rights are actually violated!

Remember when ICE announced reforms on 287g? Joe Arpaio announced ‘nothing changed’ Can we expect different with S-Comm?

New Game: Go to First one who can find their way to the civil right complaint form wins #scomm #altopolimigra #ri4a

*Deportation Nation reported on the press conference with live tweets from @DeportNation.


Advocates were stunned by today’s announcement, many had hoped the program would be suspended until the Office of Inspector General had completed its examination.

Pablo Alvarado, Director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network:
“The Secure Communities program is a Frankenstein. It doesn’t need make-up or cosmetic changes. It needs to be stopped immediately.”

Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum:
“We are pleased that DHS had decided to clarify the criteria they will use to exercise prosecutorial discretion. However, individuals affected by our obsolete immigration laws need a system through which discretion can be sought and applied.“

Andrea Black, Executive Director of Detention Watch Network:
“These changes are nowhere near sufficient to address the well-documented problems with the Secure Communities program that has thus far torn apart countless families across the country by funneling people into a detention and deportation system rife with abuse.”

Paromita Shah, Associate Director of the National Immigration Project:
“ICE should listen to our elected leaders rather than ramming this federal program down the throats of localities that want nothing to do with it.”

Retired Chief of the Sacramento Police Department and Current Project Director of the Law Enforcement Engagement Initiative Arturo Venegas:
“Advice given is not required to be taken! You have three governors and umpteen chiefs of police and sheriffs telling you there are major problems with the program and that they want out. How much heavyweight advice do you need?”

Sunita Patel, Center for Constitutional Rights staff attorney:
“ICE is simply putting lipstick on a pig. The civil rights and privacy issues triggered by the implementation of Secure Communities are just the tip of the iceberg.”

Margaret Huang, Executive Director of Rights Working Group:
“By continuing to support the program it is sanctioning racial profiling, eroding the trust local law enforcement agencies have built with communities of color and signaling to the international community that our immigration system does not respect the basic human rights of all persons in our country.”

Chung-Wha Hong, Executive Director of New York Immigration Coalition:
“In response to mounting criticism, the Department of Homeland Security announced superficial changes to its “Secure Communities” deportation program today. By making the announcement, DHS has acknowledged the program’s failures and yet the agency falls short of tackling these problems through real reforms.”


Take a look at how Secure Communities has evolved over the last three years and the growing resistance towards it.

on Dipity.

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