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ACLU Lens: Leaked Secure Communities Task Force Report Shows Program's Many Flaws

Sandhya Bathija,
Washington Legislative Office
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September 16, 2011

A task force report released today on the Department of Homeland Security’s Secure Communities reveals the program’s many problems — namely that it has led to the deportation of thousands of immigrants with no criminal records and undermines community policing efforts.

Secure Communities (S-Comm) is a federal program created by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Under S-Comm, anytime an individual is arrested and booked into a local jail for any reason, his or her fingerprints are electronically run through ICE’s immigration database, allowing ICE to identify noncitizens in local custody and to initiate deportation proceedings against them.

The ACLU has long been critical of S-Comm, arguing that the program encourages racial profiling and undermines equal protection and due process rights.

The task force recommendations have done little to alleviate those concerns.

The ACLU’s Kate Desormeau says:

“Today’s task force report documents countless problems present by S-Comm but fails to provide concrete recommendations to fix the program. If the Administration really wants to address the concerns of governors, law enforcement officials and community members about the damage to civil liberties and public safety that S-Comm inflicts, they would terminate this disastrous program.”

S-Comm has been a centerpiece of the Obama administration as an effort to remove “the worst of the worst” immigrant criminals, but the task force report shows the program is much more far-reaching than that.

The task force was made up of law enforcement chiefs from four major cities, immigrant advocates and state homeland security officials. Divisions over the report have led to five of the 19 members to resign.

“Some thought the program was too deeply flawed to continue,” Julia Preston writes in today’s New York Times. “Others, especially the police officials, argued that information-sharing among law enforcement agencies under the program was too vital to halt.”

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