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
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, June 7, 2012
Contact: Jessica Karp, NDLON: firstname.lastname@example.org , 917-855-7682
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.”