Secure Communities: Just Do It

By Jessica M. Vaughan on June 8, 2011

A vital and effective immigration law enforcement program – Secure Communities – that should have been an easy immigration policy score for the Obama administration is now in a state of disarray, all because the president and his Get Smart-like immigration appointees cannot bring themselves to stand up to sanctuary cities and a trio of governors who would rather see residents of their states killed by illegal aliens (see here and here) than to allow local police and sheriffs to help with immigration enforcement.

The latest fiasco is Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick's announcement on Monday that he will not sign an agreement with ICE to participate in Secure Communities. He joins Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in shunning the program. Several jurisdictions in California and Virginia also wish to opt out, but their governors won't allow it.

The question no one is asking is, Why is the Obama administration allowing it? They have the authority to implement Secure Communities interoperability nationwide whenever they want to. All they have to do is tell the staff at the Criminal Justice Information System, which runs the federal fingerprint information sharing and is a part of the Department of Justice, to turn it on. Anywhere they want, including Chicago, New York City, and Washington, D.C. That's all.

But no, they have to make it complicated, and what a mess they've made. First, DHS and ICE officials tell key Democratic congressional appropriators (back when they were in charge) that Secure Communities would be voluntary. Then, Janet Napolitano promises then-House immigration subcommittee chair Zoe Lofgren in writing that any jurisdiction can opt-out. Oops, the Department of Justice doesn't agree, and federal law backs them up. Inconveniently, illegal-alien drunk drivers and other assorted miscreants who kill nuns and rape children keep getting into the Washington Post. In October 2010, ICE chief John Morton and Napolitano announce that, actually, they always meant that Secure Communities would be mandatory for everyone, and there is no opting out. But sanctuary cities continue to drag their feet. Then, the National Day Laborer Organizing Committee (which believes that even criminal aliens should be immune from deportation) FOIA's ICE's e-mail. It turns out that a retired career ICE official named Dan Cadman, who worked in the Secure Communities office as a contractor, warned the ICE pols all along that giving people the impression that SC is voluntary when federal law says it is not would be counter-productive and wrong, not to mention foolish. Solution: In the classic cowardly style of the self-serving political appointee, John Morton fires Cadman, and then calls in the press to say it was all his fault. (One particularly silly open borders media account also implied Cadman was at least partially responsible for the 9/11 attacks – that's how surreal and off-base most of the media coverage has been.) In the meantime, Rep. Lofgren has demanded an investigation into whether and why DHS lied to her, and the DHS Inspector General has said it will oblige, but not until next fiscal year.

The relevant documents, including Cadman's account of ICE leadership's missteps and misleading statements, can be viewed here, here, and here.

Even though it looks like they are manufacturing controversy to avoid doing their job, the Obama administration would like us all to believe that it is serious about immigration law enforcement and public safety. I say, prove it – enough of the charades about negotiations and agreements. Tell your buddies Patrick, Quinn, and Cuomo that you mean it this time, and that the Secure Communities system will be turned on in their states, right away, before somebody else gets killed. I'll believe it when I see it.