Author: Lewis Dickson

Contractor Says ICE Misled States on Optional Enforcement Program, Fuels Federal Investigation

A letter from a former ICE regional coordinator, who was let go for his role in the opt-out confusion, provides more details on the strategy behind the implementation of the Secure Communities program.

It was included in a series of letters sent by California Rep. Zoe Lofgren to Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General as evidence for an immediate investigation into the misconduct of immigration officials.

ICE contractor Dan Cadman sent a letter to California Rep. Zoe Lofgren hoping to set the record straight following his termination with the agency after a New York Times article revealed that immigration officials launched an aggressive campaign to obtain participation from counties refusing to join, and questioned Rahm Emmanuel’s involvement with that campaign.

“Mr. Morton would have you believe that the government never indicated that the program was voluntary, and this impression only gained currency because of me,” wrote Cadman to Lofgren. “That is ironic and untrue.”

Cadman’s letter to Lofgren was prompted after ICE head John Morton sent a letter to Lofgren expressing his regret over the confusion and that the agency was taking steps to address the issue including the termination of a contractor for authoring several unacceptable e-mails.

“It comes down to this: ICE painted itself into a corner and needed someone to blame,” Cadman wrote. “While my views over the nature of voluntary participation in the program may not accord with yours, I think you will agree after reading my letter that confusion over opting out of Secure Communities has arisen not because of me, but because of the government’s own vacillation, policy shifts, and inconsistent public stances.”

Moreover, Cadman attached a separate letter to Lofgren that he sent to Secure Communities Acting Assistant Director Marc Rapp, regarding his work on opt out policies and the expansion of the program, including activation in politically sensitive states. It also reveals a network of government contractors.

Cadman had worked on the program since December 2008 and became a regional coordinator in April 2010 overseeing activation in 30 of 50 states including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, until two more coordinators were hired, one in Sept. 2010 and the other in mid-January 2011. He was let go on March 25.

Cadman’s letter further fuels concerns about the Secure Communities program, which relies on local police to enter arrest data into a joint FBI and Immigration and Customs and Enforcement (ICE) database. In recent months, local officials have voiced concerns that the program is identifying too many non-criminals and straying from its mandate of targeting dangerous criminal offenders at the expense of public safety.

Lofgren’s letter to DHS OIG is the second within a month. Lofgren first requested an investigation in late April after internal documents documented ICE’s public relations campaign to implement Secure Communities in resisting counties in California. DHS OIG Charles Edwards informed Lofgren that the OIG has planned to review the program in the first quarter of FY2012.

“Mr. Cadman’s makes it clear that further investigation is needed to determine whether other DHS and ICE personnel or contract staff were responsible for any misleading statements that were made,” Lofgren wrote  Edwards.

At the same time, advocates continue to circulate a petition calling for a moratorium on the Secure Communities expansion following inquiries from Lofgren, Illinois Senator Menendez, and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

“ICE’s behavior is looking dangerously more like Arizona’s Sheriff Arpaio which perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised by since its Arizona’s former governor leading the agency,” said B. Loewe, spokesperson for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. “Cadman’s explosive accusations are just one more layer of deceit making an immediate investigation all the more urgent and a moratorium on the program all the more necessary.”

Home

ICE Says Secure Communities Will Stay Active Even if States Opt-Out

ICE says it has decided to “terminate” contracts with states for its increasingly unpopular Secure Communities program. But that doesn’t mean the data-sharing enforcement program will stop.

The announcement came in a letter to state governors that seeks to “clarify an issue that has been the subject of substantial confusion” as ICE continues its plan to implement the program nationwide by 2013.

“Once a state or local law enforcement agency voluntarily submits fingerprint data to the federal government, no agreement with the state is legally necessary for one part of the federal government to share it with another part,” reads the letter.

Currently 1,508 jurisdictions are activated in 44 states and territories – including Puerto Rico.

In recent months Illinois, New York and Massachusetts have all tried to suspend or cancel their agreements to share arrest data from local jails with ICE, citing fear within immigrant communities that any contact with police could lead to deportation, along with concerns about racial profiling and unjust deportations.

These states have yet to respond to the announcement but advocates there have been quick to condemn it. ICE is “rogue agency” that “is trying to rule by fiat,” said Fred Tsao of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights policy director.

Chris Newman, Legal Director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, said ICE had wasted the time of both willing and resistant officials with”protracted negotiations–at substantial cost to the American public–for what it now claims are sham contracts.”

In its letter, ICE tried to “highlight recent improvements” to Secure Communities and noted it has appointed a task force to review the program. A nationwide series of public hearings is set to begin next week in Dallas, Texas. But now some advocates wonder whether ICE really wants feedback.

“I hope this announcement will show to people who are on the task force that ICE’s efforts to say they want to hear from the public are really just a sham and they should resign,” said Sunita Patel, an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Patel is part of a team that is locked in a legal battle with ICE over the release of documents originally requested in 2009 through the Freedom of Information Act.

U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin has ordered ICE to hand over the public records. “The purpose of FOIA is to shed light on the operation of government, not to shield it from embarrassment,” she said in July.

ICE until August 15 to release the public records – a decision it may appeal after she already granted two extensions.

Some advocates say ICE’s announcement is an an attempt to preempt what the documents will reveal.

Here is an excerpt from the FAQ included in the letter Morton sent today to state governors:

12. Will the Secure Communities MOAs that have already been executed remain in effect?
What is the effect of a termination of a Secure Communities MOA?

Because ICE has determined that an MOA with a state is not necessary to activate or operate
Secure Communities for jurisdictions within that state, ICE has decided to terminate all
existing MOAs. For states that already terminated their MOAs, ICE will honor the state’s
desire to no longer receive information regarding the immigration status of an individual
whose fingerprint information is submitted to the federal government via the FBI, and will
cease providing the immigration status information generated through Secure Communities
to the state.

The termination of the MOAs will have no effect on the operation of Secure Communities
for any state. ICE will continue to operate Secure Communities for jurisdictions where it is
already deployed and, over the next two years, will activate the program for the remaining
jurisdictions. ICE will fully deploy Secure Communities for all jurisdictions by the end of
2013. Prior to the activation of new jurisdictions within a state, ICE will provide advance
notice to both the state and local governments.

Home

Confusion Helped Spread of Secure Communities, Even As Resistance Remains Strong

Newly released records reveal how federal authorities kept altering their stance on whether local police are required to share arrest data with immigration agents, even if they ask not to.

“Keeping you in the loop as we progress with always changing policy as it relates to [Secure Communities],” reads a May 2010 email update from an unidentified sender about the controversial program.

The message is one of hundreds included in 15,000 pages released only after the National Day Laborers Organizing Network filed suit over a records request with help from the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Cardozo School of Law.

Most of the documents are copies of email correspondence between staff members of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) and public relations advisers. Some of the files are heavily redacted, such as one in which 58 of 65 pages are completely blacked out.

The emails were sent between early 2009 and the present, a time frame that corresponds with when ICE began to deploy Secure Communities at a quicker pace under the Obama administration. Its goal is for every local law enforcement agencies in every state to participate by 2013.

In an email from August 2009 that refers to a “marathon meeting about Interoperability deployment,” agency officials and PR advisers discuss how to ensure the quick deployment of Secure Communities:

Problem Statement:
•    Requiring a Go response from each [Law Enforcement Agency] LEA within a county will grind activations to a crawl or halt. In some SWB counties, there was considerable difficulty getting responses from any LEA.
•    Accepting a Go response from any LEA to activate all LEAs within a county does not ensure that each LEA is aware of their activation.
•    SC, and the improved identification of Criminal Aliens (CAs), is Congressionally mandated
•    It is a DHS ICE initiative to improve the identification of CAs via federal data-sharing
•    LEAs relinquish their authority to control the federal government’s use of prints once they are collected by [Criminal Justice Information Services] CJIS

But less than a year later ICE gave several counties in California instructions on how to formally request to opt-out of Secure Communities, only to then activate them against their will.

One of the emails dated June 23, 2010, indicates some ICE staff were still unclear what to say when putting together answers for counties and journalists asking about opting-out:

“I’m totally confused now. I’ve got so many versions of the opt-out language I don’t know what’s current and what’s not. It seems like we have different language for different purposes and it’s confusing. Can we put this on today’s agenda to talk about?”

Whether the mixed messages on the program’s mandatory nature were due to confusion or other factors, the outcome has been the failure of any state or county to opt-out, other than Washington, D.C. . According to ICE, Secure Communities is now in 38 states, and at least 1,006 counties nationwide.

The rapid spread includes the recent addition of Colorado and New York, two states that had cited concerns with ICE’s failure to use the program to focus on detaining dangerous immigrants. Often people who are arrested for minor traffic infractions end up transferred to ICE custody.

Immigrant advocates in New Jersey, a hold-out state which has the nation’s sixth largest immigrant population, hope Governor Chris Christie will refuse to participate. They point to his comment last June in an interview with Politico, when he said immigration “is a federal problem, it’s gotta have a federal fix… I’m not really comfortable with state law enforcement having a big role.”

Hundreds of New Jersey immigrants and their supporters are expected to protest the program today by walking three miles from the ICE office in Newark to the Essex County Detention Facility. ICE wants the county to contract with a private prison company to expand the center to 2,700 beds in anticipation of demand generated by Secure Communities.

“When local police collaborate with immigration it sends a chilling effect in our communities, it tears families apart and unjustly incarcerates our friends and neighbors,” said Jessica Culley, an organizer with the Comité de Apoyo a Los Trabajadores Agrícolas, a farm workers group in southern Jersey.

The American Friends Service Committee of New Jersey helped organize the walk after members decided “there is enough information out there that shows there are huge problems with this program,” said staff attorney, Amy Gottlieb. “New Jersey has been willing to be different in the past and I have to believe we still have an opportunity to make a really positive statement for immigrants.”

Gottlieb says members have met with state officials to express their concerns and request that the governor refuse to join Secure Communities. They recently delivered more than 2,000 letters from residents who oppose the program.

Meanwhile, Sarahi Uribe of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, a plaintiff in the FOIA lawsuit that led to the release of the newly released Secure Communities documents, says they show that, “[c]ontrary to the current ICE official position, local opt-outs appear to be possible.”

Home

Secure Communities to Play Role in Massive FBI-Biometric Database System

New documents released Wednesday assert that ICE’s controversial Secure Communities program is just a small part of a bigger effort by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to create the “world’s largest crime-fighting computer database of biometric information, including fingerprints, palm prints, iris patterns and face images” called Next Generation Identification (NGI) project.

The new findings also reaffirm the federal government’s stance on implementing the immigration enforcement program even if states like Illinois, Massachusetts, and New York decline to participate and that the FBI played a larger role in making the program mandatory.

According to the documents, obtained through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) litigation by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), and the Cardozo Law School Immigration Justice Clinic, the FBI supported a mandatory Secure Communities program as early as 2009.

In one document, the FBI Advisory Policy Board passed a motion in June 2009, recommending that ICE convert the Secure Communities program from a voluntary to a mandatory program, while ICE was publicly wavering on its mandatory vs. voluntary stance.  (FBI-SC-1312-1313; FBI-SC-1336)

Another document provided details on the reasoning behind the FBI’s decision, which was not driven by any legal mandate, but for “record-linking/maintenance purposes” in creating full interoperability between the FBI’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification (IAFIS) and DHS’ Automated Biometric Identification System (IDENT) databases for the NGI project. (FBI SC-1313)

The NGI project expands on the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division’s current IAFIS database system, which is primarily operated and maintained in Clarksburg, W. Va. Currently, Lockheed Martin has a billion dollar contract consisting of a base year and one-to-nine option years to develop the technology. The company also developed and deployed IAFIS for the FBI back in 1999.

The connection between the Secure Communities program and the FBI’s NGI project is stirring up concern among advocates who say it expands the federal government’s Big Brother role.

“These revelations should disturb us on multiple levels: the lies, the shadowy role of the FBI, the threats to citizens and non-citizens alike, and the rampant potential violations of civil liberties,” said Gitanjali Gutierez, an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights. “This goes far beyond the irreparable S-Comm program and opens a window onto the dystopian future our government has planned. With so much at stake, this process must at all costs be transparent going forward.”

Home

Police Chiefs Frustrated over Local Immigration Enforcement

Immigration enforcement by local police is having a chilling effect on how residents interact with them, warns a report from the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF).

“The last thing we need is for laws to undermine the trust that police departments have built up with the community,” said Jerry Murphy, PERF’s Director of Homeland Security and Development, during a conference call with reporters.

Police and Immigration: How Chiefs are Leading their Communities through the Challenges explores six case-studies conducted between December 2008 and September 2009 in New Haven, CT; Prince William County,VA; Montgomery County, MD; Phoenix, AZ; Mesa, AZ; and Minneapolis, MN.

It finds these local law enforcement agencies are struggling with a political atmosphere that limits the “discretion of police to deal with immigration enforcement in ways they consider best. Officers are concerned about the reluctance among immigrants to contact police to report crimes even if they are victims or witnesses.

“In many places, police chiefs and police departments have become the public face of the immigration debate,” Murphy added. “There are a significant number of police departments that have been pulled into the debate and ask the question ‘what is our designated role in enforcing immigration law?’”

While the report provides immigration reform recommendations to Congress, it also offers suggestions to local police where federal and state education, oversight, and outreach regarding enforcement fall short:

  • Officers should be prohibited from arresting or detaining persons for the sole purpose of investigating their immigration status.
  • Officers should monitor indicators of racial profiling, investigate violations, and sanctions offenders.
  • Local police agencies should become knowledgeable about programs such as 287(g), Secure Communities, and state or local initiatives to ensure that the programs meet the agency’s specified goals for participation.
  • Local police should develop comprehensive written policies and procedure regarding handling of undocumented immigrants.
  • Local police agencies should educate their communities about their role in immigration enforcement, especially the legal authorities and responsibilities of local police and federal law enforcement and engage immigrant communities in dialogue about department policies.

Back in August, Deportation Nation reported on a conference convened by the Consortium for Policy Leadership in Equality (CPLE), where police chiefs from 27 major cities expressed concerns about the extra burdens created by federal programs like Secure Communities and 287(g) as well as Arizona copycat bills pending in dozens of states.

A June 2010 by the CPLE pointed to the negative effects created when police officers doubled as immigrant agents. It found that 1 in 3 Salt Lake City, Utah, residents are unwilling to report drug-related crimes when law enforcement can detain someone based on their immigration status. Undocumented immigrants, as well as Latino and White citizens, were more likely to leave drug crimes unreported.

Meanwhile, at the July 2009 Summit on Immigration Enforcement of more than 100 police chiefs and other local stakeholders, participants expressed frustration with the lack of response from ICE to police concerns.

During Wednesday’s call, Chief Christopher Moore of the San Jose Police Department in California said it was “troubling” that crimes went unreported in his community because people were afraid of police, who now play a role in immigration enforcement.

“We’re looking to strengthen our relationship [with the community],” said Moore, who in his first big policy move last month as police chief, announced plans to broaden the definition of racial profiling and investigate more claims of biased behavior by officers.

Chief Victor Rodriguez of the McAllen Police Department in Texas, echoed Moore’s concerns. Earlier this month, Rodriguez was one of several police chiefs and sheriffs that met at the Texas Capitol to denounce proposals that would give local police more immigration enforcement responsibilities.

“It’s my position that if we continue to go down this path, we’ll make our communities more dangerous,” Rodriguez said.

We’d like to know your thoughts on the PERF’s findings. Click this link to mark up the report with your comments.

Round-up: Immigration and Enforcement Systems Under Fire Amidst Record-Number Deportations

On the heels of the Obama administration’s announcement of its latest record-high number of deportations, two television documentaries and a study revealed persistent problems with the nation’s immigration detention and enforcement systems. Meanwhile, Santa Clara passed new guidelines for civil immigration detainers and a Washington D.C. Mayor signed an executive order Wednesday that would prohibit local police from inquiring about a person’s immigrant status. Then on Thursday, the American Civil Liberties Union released documents containing nearly 200 allegations of sexual abuse against female immigration detainees in federal detention centers since 2007.

Nearly 400,000 Deported from the U.S. in 2011

The Administration reported this week that it had deported a record number of undocumented immigrants for the third year in a row, removing 396,906 individuals in FY2011.

“These year-end totals indicate that we are making progress, with more convicted criminals, recent border crossers, egregious immigration law violators and immigration fugitives being removed from the country than ever before,” said Immigration Customs and Enforcement Director John Morton.

According to the enforcement agency, nearly 55 percent or 216,698 of the people removed were convicted of felonies or misdemeanors — an 89 percent increase in the removal of criminals since FY 2008. This included 1,119 immigrants convicted of homicide; 5,848 immigrants convicted of sexual offenses; 44,653 immigrants convicted of drug related crimes; and 35,927 immigrants convicted of driving under the influence. Meanwhile, it reported that ninety percent of all ICE’s removals fell into a priority category and more than two-thirds of the other removals in 2011 were either recent border crossers or repeat immigration violators.

Critics of the administration’s failure to address systemic reform expressed disappointment with the enforcement tally. “President Obama has continued his aggressive persecution, jailing, and deportation of hundreds of thousands of immigrants who he has labeled ‘criminals’ and whose lives are being destroyed through traffic violations and similar minor infractions,” said Roberto Lovato of Presente.org.

The agency has continued to aggressively defend the increasingly unpopular program despite the program’s shortcomings. Critics have argued that the program has veered off its mandate of targeting priority offenders and deteriorated relationships between local police and the communities they work in.

In August, ICE announced  it would launch a case-by-case review of  approximately 300,000 cases of undocumented immigrants in removal proceedings, allowing those who pose no threat to society to remain in the country and apply for a work permit. It also laid out new guidelines to address enforcement activity, detention decisions, budget requests and prosecutorial discretion.

PBS’s Frontline, in partnership with The Investigative Reporting Workshop, produced “Lost in Detention,” a documentary based on a year-long investigation into America’s vast immigrant detention system and documented the far-rearching impact of the Obama administration’s controversial immigration enforcement policies. It examines the abuses at the Willacy Detention Center, also known as Tent City, which was given a “good” grade even after 900 complaints were filed by detainees and featured the story of “Mary,” a Canadian immigrant who was held there and sexually abused by a guard.

“Lost in Detention” is based on the work that Deportation Nation‘s Stokely Baksh began as a post-graduate fellow at the Investigative Reporting Workshop:

The Workshop requested data going back a decade about people held by the U.S. government for deportation, including detainee names, when and where individuals were booked in and booked out of detention, and what prompted their arrest. We asked for this information in several Freedom of Information Act requests to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, part of the Department of Homeland Security, one of the nation’s largest, federal, law-enforcement agencies.

What arrived at our doorstep in 2009 was a mess of confusing and incomplete information that didn’t help us answer our original questions.  After months of trying to pry data from the agency about those being detained, it was clear that the government didn’t always know where the detainees were held, how long they were detained, or how much they paid to house and feed them. In fact, our records showed that in some cases officials might not have known whether detainees were actually in custody or even if they were dead or alive.

Meanwhile, CNBC produced a documentary that explored the the profits and inner-workings of the multi-billion dollar corrections industry, which costs states and the federal government some $74 billion a year and employs nearly 800,000 employees, including the profitable business of immigration detention.

Warren Institute Study Highlights Problems with Secure Communities Program

The Warren Institute at UC Berkeley School of Law released a study Wednesday that analyzed Secure Communities data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, Center for Constitutional Rights, and the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.

“Programs like Secure Communities are understudied, largely because of their rapid implementation and expansion and because the data has been kept, in large part, confidential,” wrote the study’s authors. “Given that its expansion does not appear to be slowing down, it is all the more imperative that research on the impact of Secure Communities continues.”

According to the study, the findings in “Secure Communities by the Numbers: An Analysis of Demographics and Due Process” are based on a random national sample of 375 individuals who were identified as “IDENTMatches” by the Secure Communities Program and were apprehended by ICE after October 1, 2008. The Institute also analyzed data on removal proceedings.

Main findings:

  • Approximately 3,600 United States citizens have been arrested by ICE through the Secure Communities program
  • More than one-third (39%) of those arrested through Secure Communities report that they have a U.S. citizen spouse or child, meaning that approximately 88,000 families with U.S. citizen members have been impacted by Secure Communities
  • Latinos comprise 93% of individuals arrested through Secure Communities though they only comprise 77% of the undocumented population in the United States
  • Only 52% of individuals arrested through Secure Communities are slated to have a hearing before an immigration judge
  • Only 24% of individuals arrested through Secure Communities and who had immigration hearings had an attorney compared to 40% of all immigration court respondents who have counsel
  • Only 2% of non-citizens arrested through Secure Communities are granted relief from deportation by an immigration judge as compared to 14% of all immigration court respondents who are granted relief
  • A large majority (83%) of people arrested through Secure Communities is placed in ICE detention as compared with an overall DHS immigration detention rate of 62%, and ICE does not appear to be exercising discretion based on its own prioritization system when deciding whether or not to detain an individual.

“The Warren Institute study demonstrates how deeply U.S. citizens’ own rights have been eroded in the name of immigration enforcement. The Obama administration should treat this study as the final nail in the coffin of a program that should have been buried long ago,” said Sarahi Uribe, Organizer for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network.

Jurisdictions Set New Guidelines to Limit Police Collaboration in Immigration Enforcement

In a 3-1 vote, Santa Clara County officials approved a new set of guidelines for civil immigration detainers, which would limit the county’s collaboration with ICE officials. The guidelines would require the county to only honor those detainers convicted of “serious” or “violent” felonies and it would not apply a detainer hold on juveniles. The guidelines would also require a written agreement from ICE to reimburse all costs incurred by the County for holding a detainer for an extended time.

According to the New America Media, Supervisor George Shirakawa told an audience of supporters, “Today is historic. We now have the most progressive policy in this field, and the whole nation will be looking at us as Santa Clara County makes it official: we don’t do ICE’s job.”

Meanwhile, the Washington Post reported that Washington D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) signed an executive order that would prohibit police, fire fighters, the attorney general’s office and other public safety agencies from inquiring about a person’s immigrant status or contacting ICE. However, the order does not apply in criminal investigations.

ACLU Releases Documents on Sexual Abuse Complaints in Immigration Detention Centers

The ACLU released documents obtained through a FOIA request that shows the nearly 200 allegations of sexual abuse in today’s immigration detention centers. It coincided with a federal class action suit filed by the ACLU of Texas on behalf of three immigrant women who were sexually assaulted, while they here held at the controversial T. Don Hutto facility.

According to the ACLU, 185 complaints had been made to DHS since 2007, 56 of which were from facilities in Texas. The defendants in the lawsuit include three ICE officials; Williamson County, Texas; Corrections Corporation of America (CCA); the former facility administrator for Hutto; and Donald Dunn, a guard who pleaded guilty in state court to three counts of official oppression and two counts of unlawful restraint based on his assaults of five women, reported the ACLU. Dunn was also charged with four additional federal counts of criminal violation of civil rights.

The ACLU also reported:

The assaults occurred when Dunn alone was transporting women from the Hutto facility to the airport or bus station in nearby Austin. Log books and other documents obtained by the ACLU of Texas indicate that in addition to the seven known occasions on which Dunn is believed to have assaulted a total of nine women, at least 20 different male guards transported at least 44 female detainees alone between December 2008 and May 2010. The lawsuit alleges that ICE, Williamson County and CCA were deliberately indifferent and willfully blind to the fact that Dunn and other employees regularly violated the rule that detainees not be transported without another escort officer of the same gender present.

“Unfortunately, we believe these complaints are just the tip of the iceberg,” said Mark Whitburn, senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Texas. “Immigrants in detention are uniquely vulnerable to abuse, and those holding them in custody know it. Many do not speak English, many – like our plaintiffs – have fled violence in their home countries and are terrified of being returned. They may not be aware of their rights or they may be afraid to exercise them.”

The ACLU also launched a new page on its website devoted to the issue of sexual abuse of immigration detainees and a special blog series examining the consequences of detention. The ACLU’s Blog of Rights will host the series, which will run from Oct. 19 through Nov. 1, and examine ramped up enforcement efforts, deaths in detention, mental disabilities, sexual abuse, prolonged detention and privatization of detention facilities.

Update: Illinois Governor Terminates Secure Communities Agreement, DHS Overrides Decision

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.”

Illegals Suck says:

Quinn can advocate for the illegals, but there is no opt out of Secure Communities. Sad how they protect the criminals and hinder law enforcement!

Illegal want to be legal says:

All governor should advocate for inmigrants. Thanks to inmigrants this country is great. WEven Obama should stop secure communities. He himself is an inmigrant descendant. If you don’t like Illegals, well, legalize them. They are peaceful people. the only thing they want is an oportinity to get a better life.