A report released by the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute at UC-Berkeley Law School today recommends that expansion of the controversial Secure Communities program be halted until ICE overhauls the program. Started in 2008, Secure Communities automatically shares the fingerprints of anyone booked in county jails with the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). ICE then has the option of asking local authorities to hold an individual they suspect of being in the country illegally, with the idea that agents then have the option of picking the person up and transferring them to federal custody. The stated purpose of the program is to further a new national approach to immigration enforcement–one focused less on the average undocumented immigrant and more on deporting those who commit crimes.
Since its inception, immigrant advocates have had major concerns about the program–particularly that it would sweep up a lot of non-criminals into the deportation process. The Berkeley report seems to confirm this fear. Extrapolating from data obtained by several organizations through Freedom of Information Act requests, researchers found:
- An estimated 3,600 U.S. citizens have been detained through the program;
- About 27 percent of those deported under the program were deported because of a criminal conviction–and 8 percent for an aggravated felony;
- In general, those deported under Secure Communities were more likely than usual to be kept incarcerated during their deportation proceedings and appeared to have less access to appeals, judges, and lawyers.
Similar concerns were raised by an ICE task force last month. As of yet, the federal government has shown no signs of slowing the implementation of Secure Communities, which is currently in 1,595 jurisdictions nationwide and on schedule to be implemented everywhere by the end of 2013. Yesterday, Santa Clara County supervisors voted to stop participating in the program–which the federal government says is mandatory–by not complying when ICE requests holds on jail inmates. San Francisco County has a similar policy when it comes to holds, only complying with those placed on people with criminal histories.