Napolitano Confirms Secure Communities Opt-Out Process

We recently asked, “Is it Really Possible to Opt-Out of Secure Communities?”

Now Deportation Nation has learned that Department of Homeland Security head Janet Napolitano confirmed the opt-out process in letter sent Sept. 7 to Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA).

Napolitano’s letter comes in response to an inquiry made by Lofgren in a July 27 letter to Napolitano and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder about confusion over the opt-out process.

“The highest authority at the Department of Homeland Security has confirmed an opt out process,” said Sarahi Uribe, coordinator of a national campaign to stop Secure Communities called “Uncover the Truth.”

Secure Communities began enlisting local law enforcement agencies to share arrest data with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in October 2008. A lawsuit filed this year by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), Cardozo Law School and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network sought the release of information about the program.

“It’s a shame that in spite of Obama’s pledge of transparency, it took litigation and public pressure for Napolitano to clarify her agency’s position,” said CCR staff attorney Sunita Patel.

Napolitano’s letter confirms a process described in a memo ICE released in late August.

“What’s clear to me is now we’ve received confirmation from three government parties confirming that Secure Communities is voluntary,” said Angela Chan, staff attorney with the Asian Law Caucus in San Fransisco.

But Chan said advocates working to oppose the program remain unclear on whether ICE will follow the procedure it has now described.

“It opens the door to opting out,” said Chan. “The biggest challenge is to be able to walk through that door.”

San Fransisco County Sheriff, Mike Hennessey, tried to opt-out of Secure Communities by sending a letter of request earlier this year, but the program was activated anyway. He has since sent a second letter as per the instructions from ICE, but has still not received a reply.

“Cities like San Francisco were coerced into the program and now ICE must come clean and let them out,” said Uribe. “Here we have a Sheriff who wants out of the program, and it begs the question: why have they not been let out already?”