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Migration Declassified: ICE’s Controversial Secure Communities Program

August 6, 2013

Under Secure Communities, local law enforcement work with ICE to run immigration background checks on arrestees. (Photo courtesy Northern Colorado Gazette)

Recently, Laura Kauer of the Archive’s Mexico/Migration Project launched a new round of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests on what has become one of the most controversial immigration enforcement initiatives in the United States: the Secure Communities deportation program. The data-sharing program requires participating state and municipal jurisdictions to run the fingerprints of arrestees through various federal law enforcement databases to check for immigration violations.  More than 90% of those arrested through the Secure Communities are Latino, and approximately 3,600 U.S. citizens have been arrested by ICE through the program. More than one-third (39%) of individuals arrested through Secure Communities reported that they have a U.S. citizen spouse or child, meaning that approximately 88,000 families with U.S. citizen members have been impacted by the program.

Now, many of those states and municipalities are refusing to cooperate with the program. “We need the trust, and that is exactly the opposite of what [Secure Communities] is suggesting,” said Jack Cole, a former New Jersey state police detective and co-founder of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. “It is the antithesis of what we need as police officers.”

One of our primary objectives here at the Mexico/Migration Project of the National Security Archive is to increase transparency around the security and law enforcement institutions in Mexico and the United States. At issue are those institutions whose policies and operations directly affect the rights of migrants as well as those agencies that produce information that advance our understanding of those policies and operations. (In a recent post, we looked at ICE’s Interior Repatriation Program.)

Our latest FOIA requests on the Secure Communities program are part of this overall effort. Writing to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), we asked for records on the design, goals and implementation of Secure Communities program; removal statistics; budget and operational statistics; activities reports and other operational summaries; and internal and external evaluations and other documents related to oversight of the program.

Read more over at Migration Declassified.

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