Category: secure communities

How Immigration Reform Got Caught in the Deportation Dragnet

Shahed Hossain Photo: Erin Hollaway

Things have only gotten worse since Seth Wessler published this piece in Colorlines almost two years ago.  From Bill Clinton to Barack Obama, proponents of comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) have believed that tough deportation policies provided the quid pro quo concession that would bring immigration hawks to the bargaining table.  It hasn’t worked.  This misbegotten strategy has simply ensured that hardliners provided the harsh narrative driving the immigration debate.  Minor tweaks to American immigration policy (like president Obama’s recent announcement that undocumented adolescents would no longer be targeted for deportation) aren’t sufficient.  We need a thoroughgoing critique of existing policy and an alternative vision rooted in compassion and common sense.  The status quo has got to go.  AGB

How Immigration Reform Got Caught in the Deportation Dragnet

by Seth Freed Wessler

Thursday, October 7 2010,

On the night that Shahed Hossain left his family’s house in a Haltom City, Texas, to drive to Laredo, his mother, Habiba Hossain, cooked dinner—chicken and rice and okra picked from the garden. She piled her son’s plate high and watched him eat. Then, she took his Bangladeshi passport from a drawer and handed it to him, leaving his green card safely stored away. The 21-year-old had a penchant for losing things and a green card is not a thing to lose. She hurried him out the door and into the white utility van in the driveway where his boss waited.

“I’ll see him in a week,” she thought. Like every other time he’d set off for work trips all over Texas, she figured, her younger son would return to that house where he grew up with his brother and his parents and the dog.

But that night was the last time Shahed Hossain’s mother would see him free in United States, the last time she’d have a chance to worry he’d lose anything. Six days later, Hossain was locked up in a privately run immigration detention center near the U.S.-Mexico border. He spent more than a year there, a period he’s tried to forget, before he was shackled, loaded onto a plane and flown to Dhaka, Bangladesh. (more…)

Why American immigration policy is in chaos

By Alan Bean

It is difficult to make sense of American immigration policy because our immigration policy makes no sense.  The Obama administration swept to victory in 2008 on promises of comprehensive immigration reform.  When efforts to follow through on this promise were met with hysterical references to amnesty and calls for wholesale deportation, Obama ramped up a Secure Communities program ostensibly designed to identify and deport undocumented residents with criminal records.  Secure Communities (also know as S-Comm) led to record levels of deportation (upwards of 400,000 per year) as the number of people entering the country, legally and illegally, dropped to a 40-year low.  Mass deportation did little to silence Obama’s critics on the right but sparked claims from the Latino community that the spike in deportation was separating undocumented parents from their  citizen children while targeting people who posed no threat to public safety.

In response to criticism from a sector Obama can’t afford to ignore, ICE officials were ordered to focus on keeping families together while deporting only “the worst of the worst”.  In December, immigration prosecutors initiated an extensive review of the nearly 300,000 deportation cases pending in the nation’s 58 Immigration Courts to ensure that the new policy was being carried out.  As a result, the deportation machinery has slowed considerably. 

Conservatives are calling Obama’s new policy a de facto amnesty for illegal aliens; Latino critics complain that thousands of harmless people are languishing in immigration prisons while public officials dither.

Now, according to this article in the Tucson Citizen, some are alleging that the judicial logjam in the nation’s immigration courts has been caused by conservative officials within the Homeland Security establishment who take their cue from conservative Republicans demanding that every undocumented person must be deported regardless of criminal history or family circumstances. 

In other words, as the President attempts to arbitrate the contradictory demands of conservative Republicans and Latino activists there is no sign that a coherent immigration policy will emerge any time soon.  By nature, Obama is a conciliator eager to meet his opponents in the middle.  As the fall election approaches at freight train speed, however, no one is in the mood for cutting pragmatic deals.  If Obama doesn’t go to the wall to back up his kinder-gentler version of Secure Communities he could lose the enthusiastic support of the Latino community.

New policy slow to clear deportation backlog

on Jun. 09, 2012

Tucson Citizen

Federal immigration officials have closed less than 2 percent of the more than 230,000 cases they have reviewed in the past six months in their effort to reduce backlogged immigration courts and focus more attention on deporting serious criminals. (more…)

FBI hears from critics of controversial deportation program

The controversy over the federal government’s Secure Communities program is heating up.  If this briefing from “Uncover the Truth” (a website dedicated to monitoring Secure Communities), the FBI community is split on the issue, with one group upset over the federal mandates that have been imposed on local law enforcement, and the another group supporting the status quo.  Is Secure Communities a legitimate program or a classic example of mission creep and Big Brother bureaucracy?  This issue has created an interesting coalition between civil rights advocates and small government, privacy rights people. AGB

Thursday, June 7, 2012
Contact: Jessica Karp, NDLON: , 917-855-7682

Controversy Over “Secure Communities” Deportation Program Widens as FBI Role is Scrutinized At Bi-Annual oversight meeting, Advocates Call on FBI to alter program to protect public safety

Buffalo, New York–Today, immigrants’ rights and privacy advocates are addressing the bi-annual meeting of the FBI group charged with managing the nation’s criminal databases. Their topic is the controversial “Secure Communities” deportation program. The advocates say the FBI makes the program possible by automatically forwarding all arrest fingerprints to DHS for an immigration background check. And they say the FBI should change that policy in response to growing calls from governors, police chiefs, and communities across the country–including New York City, Washington D.C., Massachusetts, and Vermont, where Secure Communities was recently activated over strong local opposition.

Said Jessica Karp, Staff Attorney and Soros Fellow with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network: “We know from documents received through the Freedom of Information Act that Secure Communities has generated fierce debate within the FBI between those who support states’ right to opt out and those who want to keep the program mandatory. Top FBI officials have described their position as ‘being caught in a nuclear war,’ saying, ‘[a]ny way we go will contradict one of our partners.’ We hope today’s meeting will show the FBI that the right way forward is clear—it must end its facilitation of this ill-conceived and mismanaged deportation program.”

Sonia Lin, Attorney and Clinical Teaching Fellow at the Cardozo School of Law Immigration Justice Clinic, says: “The FBI is supposed to partner with state and local police to promote public safety. But Secure Communities was imposed on states and local agencies without their consent. It undermines community policing, diverts local resources, and turns local law enforcement agencies into gateways to deportation. The FBI has the authority—and the obligation—to rethink its involvement in this deportation dragnet.”

Travis Hall, a PhD candidate at New York University studying biometric programs, said: “There are many ways to set up biometric databases–they can either increase detrimental forms of surveillance and encroach upon privacy rights, or they can be used to bolster security and be privacy enhancing. This depends a great deal on the values embedded into the technologies during their design and application. Right now the Secure Communities program is a textbook case of ‘function creep’, when information collected for one purpose is inappropriately used for another. It is my hope that the FBI will take into consideration the concerns of privacy and immigration rights activists in setting the standards and policies that structure their collection and dissemination of personally identifiable information.”