Blog of Rights

Agreed: Facts Matter on Immigration and Deportation

By Joanne Lin, Washington Legislative Office at 5:39pm

The ACLU wholeheartedly agrees with the White House’s August 16 Secure Communities blog post that, "in the debate over immigration and deportations, the facts matter." Under Secure Communities, local jails run all arrestees’ fingerprints through not only criminal databases, but also immigration databases, in an effort to deport convicted drug traffickers, gang members, and other violent criminals. The problem is too many innocent people, or those who are not "the worst of the worst" as the White House says, are being deported. If you look at the entire universe of facts concerning immigration enforcement, not the limited set of facts the administration highlights, you'll see why.

Consider these facts about immigration and crime. Illegal immigration has nose-dived. The Pew Hispanic Center issued a 2010 report finding a sharp decline in unauthorized immigration to the U.S. According to the report, "the annual inflow of unauthorized immigrants to the United States was nearly two-thirds smaller in the March 2007 to March 2009 period than it had been from March 2000 to March 2005."

While illegal immigration was on the decline, so was crime: According to 2011 FBI data, the number of violent crimes is the lowest in nearly 40 years. "In all regions, the country appears to be safer. The odds of being murdered or robbed are now less than half of what they were in the early 1990s, when violent crime peaked in the United States." (These crime rates pertain to the U.S. population as a whole and are not specific to immigrants).

Despite this, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) under the Obama administration deports nearly 400,000 people annually (387,242 in 2010 and 395,165 in 2009). These figures set all-time records and surpassed the 2008 annual deportation rate under President George W. Bush (359,795). At this rate, this president will deport over 1 million people by the end of 2011.

And at no small cost: The administration has spent $550 million on Secure Communities, a program that is not mandated by Congress and is unwanted by many state and local government officials. Government spending for immigration enforcement has more than doubled from $2 billion (FY 2004) to about $5.5 billion (FY 2011).

And they've had little to show for all this spending. Contrary to the administration's statements that the Secure Communities program targets the "worst of the worst," it is undisputed that nearly 60 percent of all individuals deported have never been convicted of a crime, or have only misdemeanor convictions.

How can the White House square these statistics with its August 16 blog:

For the first time ever, those resources are being used in a strategic and targeted way to ensure we're maximizing public safety. Under the President's direction, the Department of Homeland Security for the first time ever has prioritized the removal of people who have been convicted of crimes in the United States... While we have more work to do, the statistics demonstrate that the strategy DHS put in place is working... The Secure Communities Program is a powerful tool to keep the government's immigration enforcement resources focused where they belong - on those who fit within DHS's highest enforcement priorities, such as those who have committed crimes in the United States.

Compare what the governors of Illinois and New York (both allies of the President) are saying about Secure Communities:

  • Illinois Governor Pat Quinn: "The stated purpose of the program, as set forth in the [Memoradum of Agreement], is to 'identify, detain, and remove from the United States aliens who have been convicted of serious criminal offenses and are subject to removal' (emphasis added) . . . [the] program in Illinois is contrary to the stated purpose of the MOA: more than 30% of those deported under the program have never been convicted of any crime, much less a serious one."
  • New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's office: "[T]he program, conceived of as a method of targeting those who pose the greatest threat to our communities, is in fact having the opposite effect and compromising public safety by deterring witnesses from crimes and others from working with law enforcement."

In many jurisdictions, the rate of Secure Communities deportations surpasses the 60 percent national average:

  • Frederick Co., Maryland (a suburb of Washington, D.C.): over 96 percent of individuals deported under Secure Communities had either no convictions or misdemeanor convictions only.
  • Travis Co., Texas: nearly 85 percent of individuals deported under Secure Communities had either no convictions or misdemeanor convictions only.
  • Broward Co., Florida: over 74 percent of individuals deported under Secure Communities had either no convictions or misdemeanor convictions only.
  • Collin Co., Texas: nearly 73 percent of individuals deported under Secure Communities had either no convictions or misdemeanor convictions only.
  • St. Lucie Co., Florida: over 72 percent of individuals deported under Secure Communities had either no convictions or misdemeanor convictions only.
  • Yavapai Co., Arizona: over 70 percent of individuals deported under Secure Communities had either no convictions or misdemeanor convictions only.

Despite the administration's repeated statements that Secure Communities poses no civil rights concerns, they continue to turn a blind eye to racial profiling by operating Secure Communities in:

Yes, the ACLU agrees that "facts matter." All these facts point to one conclusion — taxpayers cannot afford an expensive, un-mandated government program that has come under fire across the country. It is time to end Secure Communities.

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