“Secure Communities”: Immigration reform gone amiss

by the Rural Women’s Health Project

In Florida, every county has the “Secure Communities” program. “Secure Communities,” or S-Comm, is a euphemism for law enforcement taking on the role of immigration officers, verifying the legal status of everyone brought in for questioning or charges, even women who are the victims of domestic violence or those who are victims of other crimes.

What follows is the introduction and recommendations from the newly released report, “Restoring Community,” which uncovers out-of-the-shadows perspectives and testimonies on the havoc being caused by the S-Comm program throughout the country.

The full report is available at: http://altopolimigra.com/s-comm-shadow-report/.

Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) leadership developed and rolled out the S-Comm program in secret and at breakneck speed with little or no input from law enforcement agents, local officials, scholars, immigrant communities, faith groups, immigrant rights advocates or other affected communities.

The result as described in this report is a fundamentally flawed program that is beyond repair. Indeed, in the past two years, U.S. immigration policy has been revolutionized by devolution of authority to local police that constitutes a civil and human rights crisis. …

S-Comm multiplies the force of unjust immigration laws and enforcement policies that tear families apart, that penalize parents for working to make a better life for their children, and that further entrench inequality. It multiplies laws and enforcement policies that, in effect, make the pursuit of the American Dream a criminal proposition for current generations of immigrants. That such a program should be the showcase policy of an Administration that presents itself as a champion of immigration reform is a betrayal. Multiplying the force of misguided policy and unjust laws is not reform, it is a step backwards.

By now, it is clear to anyone who has observed the firestorm in Arizona in the wake of SB 1070 that the conflation of local police work and immigration enforcement is bad policy. This is true whether the policy comes from misguided and unconstitutional state laws or misguided and unjust federal programs.

By entangling local police in the business of civil immigration law enforcement, S-Comm is leading to the Arizonification of the country. S-Comm, like SB 1070 and its copycats, encourages a criminalization of immigrants that is inherently incompatible with the goal of integration and reform.

But it is not too late. In the midst of the controversy, fear, and pain engendered by S-Comm, there is hope. Those who S-Comm seeks to silence, criminalize and exile are standing up to tell their stories and to be recognized as parents, children, students, workers and valuable, contributing members of our community.

These same brave individuals are now fighting not just for their own rights, but for the rights of us all, by joining the struggle to defend cherished civil liberties, bedrock principles of equality and basic fairness. They are also fighting to defend the safety of all our communities.

Advocates, law enforcement officers and government officials are pushing back against S-Comm and other misguided programs that force police-ICE collaboration. Clergy and other people of faith around the country have attended and testified at ICE hearings, spoken out at immigrant rights rallies, accompanied immigrant families to court, visited people being held in detention, provided sanctuary, advocated with public officials and witnessed for an end to this program.

After persevering through the failed experiments of S-Comm and its predecessors, 287(g) and the Criminal Alien program, there is now a resounding consensus that in order to keep our families together, we must keep police and ICE separate. Progress is indeed possible. This report provides us the way forward.

To get involved in pushing for comprehensive immigration reform, please contact Gainesville’s Interfaith Alliance for Immigrant Justice (IAIJ). The IAIJ is organizing and educating faith communities to work together towards the singular goal of immigrant justice. Please contact them at: GainesvilleIAIJ@gmail.com, 352-215-4255 or 352-562-1386. Their website is www.gainesvilleiaij.blogspot.com.

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