Secure Communities, Please

By Jessica M. Vaughan on March 14, 2011

There are approximately 2.1 million criminal aliens living in the United States, according to new figures from ICE's Secure Communities office. Of these, about 1.9 million are removable, and the remaining 200,000 are green card holders who committed lesser crimes allowing them to avoid removal.

Former ICE Official Dan Cadman Explains
the Secure Communities Program:
View the Full Interview

According to ICE, each year about 900,000 aliens are criminally arrested. And, each year about 700,000 aliens are released from correctional custody (jail, prison, or probation). ICE estimates that there are more than 1.2 million criminal aliens who are at large in our communities.

Needless to say, this large population of criminal aliens imposes enormous costs in American communities – for crime victims, for prosecution and justice, and for the degradation of quality of life that results.

Yet some cities and states are still dithering over whether to participate in ICE's Secure Communities program, which helps ICE find and remove foreign nationals who have been arrested by local police and sheriffs through electronic fingerprint sharing.

New Illinois governor Pat Quinn halted the implementation of Secure Communities in his state in mid-stream, reportedly at the behest of the Mexican consulate. Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick has refused to allow agencies in his state to sign on, citing concerns that ICE is removing not only murderers and rapists, but also gang members, spouse-beaters, and people who have been deported before. (Local activists are starting to fight back, and just this weekend hijacked a public meeting engineered to justify the governor's position). The Washington, D.C., city council pulled the plug on the capital city’s participation, invoking the familiar but fictitious notion that immigrants will stop reporting crimes if the police help ICE find the illegal-alien criminals.

You would think that it would be hard to find someone who is against removing illegal aliens who have committed crimes. But advocates for illegal aliens have made opposition to the common-sense Secure Communities program a point of principle. The New York State Working Group Against Deportation has distributed a "Toolkit for Action" against Secure Communities. Among the talking points:

  • We should NOT say it is OK to deport "dangerous or violent criminals" . . .

  • Our goal is to bring attention to how unjust the detention and deportation system is overall. We undermine our work by advocating for the deportation of any particular group . . .

  • Our immigrant communities shouldn’t be divided into the "deserving" and "undeserving" to be deported . . . .

  • We are not fighting for S-Comm [sic] to work efficiently . . . but rather to put an end to the collaborations between local law enforcement agencies and ICE that are tearing apart families.

What remains to be seen is, will the Obama Administration, which openly shares the goals of these advocates, hold its high ground and require that all jurisdictions join Secure Communities by 2013, or will they find a way to allow for a patchwork of criminal alien sanctuaries to thrive and thumb their nose at immigration law enforcement?