ACLU: Sec. Napolitano’s Emphasis on S-Comm Program Will Lead to Racial Profiling, Other Civil Rights Violations

October 5, 2011 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, in a speech today at American University, highlighted the department’s unprecedented deportation rates, which have resulted in more than one million people being deported during the Obama administration. Napolitano also continued her defense of the Secure Communities (S-Comm) program.

The ACLU has long been critical of S-Comm, arguing that the program encourages racial profiling and undermines equal protection and due process rights. A task force report released in September on S-Comm reported many problems with the program – including the deportation of thousands of immigrants with no criminal records.

“Despite all these concerns, Sec. Napolitano has made clear that S-Comm will continue to operate as the centerpiece of the Obama immigration enforcement plan, even in jurisdictions with records of racial profiling by local law enforcement,” said Joanne Lin, ACLU legislative counsel. “That includes states such as Alabama where a state-sanctioned racial profiling law went into effect last week.

“By continuing to operate S-Comm in Alabama and other jurisdictions with records of discriminatory policing,” Lin continued, “the Department of Homeland Security is actively fostering racial profiling of Latinos and other immigrants.”

DHS has deployed S-COMM in several jurisdictions where local police have been investigated or sued by the Department of Justice for discriminatory policing and civil rights violations against Latinos, including: Maricopa County, Ariz.; Cobb County, Ga.; New Orleans, La.; Suffolk County, N.Y.; Alamance County, N.C.; and Puerto Rico.

Additionally, the rhetoric used to sell S-COMM is not supported by the data showing that the vast majority of people deported under S-COMM are not dangerous violent felons. Despite Napolitano’s claims that S-Comm helps DHS “track down criminals and gang members on our streets and in our jails,” Immigration and Customs Enforcement statistics reveal that nearly 59 percent of all individuals deported under S-Comm had no criminal convictions or misdemeanor convictions only.

S-Comm was 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 Department of Homeland Security started the program in 14 jurisdictions in 2008, and it has since expanded to more than 1,500 jurisdictions in 44 states and territories. ICE plans to operate the program nationwide by 2013.

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