If the Arizona immigration law is ‘misguided,’ so is Obama's criminal-alien roundup program
Obama's ‘Secure Communities’ immigration enforcement program appears susceptible to racial profiling and a lack of due process. Citizens need more details.
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And it’s not just illegal aliens who may suffer. Like other federal databases, the one being used by Secure Communities still has a fairly high error rate – in fact, according to the ICE’s own statistics, 5 percent of the positive “hits” turn out to legal immigrants or US citizens, not illegal aliens. Which means thousands of people could be wrongly detained, and even deported, under this program.Skip to next paragraph
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But that’s not all. Secure Communities lacks procedural safeguards to ensure that persons who are arrested and detained can appeal their detention. In the past, such suspects were often released, at the discretion of local authorities, if ICE failed to claim them. But under Secure Communities, once a formal “detainer” is established, it cannot be undone.
Which means many illegal aliens who are otherwise innocent of a crime might be subject to indefinite detention – a violation of due process.
Finally, and perhaps most ominously, state and local jails are not being given the option to participate in Secure Communities. The Department of Homeland Security considers their involvement mandatory. San Francisco, in fact, recently tried to “opt out” of the program, citing civil rights concerns. But California attorney general Jerry Brown, facing a climate of anti-immigrant sentiment, rebuffed that effort.
In fact, largely out of public view, the White House has been fast-tracking Secure Communities. The program is currently operational in 169 jurisdictions, in 20 states, including Arizona. That makes the Obama administration’s criticism of Arizona’s new enforcement law seem all the more ironic.
Given the stakes and the potential implications, the Obama administration should agree to make public all available details on the proposed plan and scope of Secure Communities, as well as data on how the program’s been implemented to date. Last month the Center for Constitutional Rights filed a lawsuit against the Justice Department demanding that it do so.
Obama should direct the Justice Department to comply. Even better, Homeland Security director Janet Napolitano should appear before the Senate and House Judiciary Committees to answer questions about this program.
With the credibility of immigration reform on the line, stricter accountability and oversight is needed before the Secure Communities program proceeds any further.
Stewart J. Lawrence is a longtime immigration policy consultant based in Washington, D.C.