'Secure Communities' Deporting Low-Level Criminals and Innocents, Opponents Say

Categories: Immigration
Jaywalking? That'll get you deported, hombre
The majority of illegal immigrants deported by a controversial federal program known as Secure Communities are not the "high threat" criminal immigrants the Feds claimed the program would ensnare, according to statistics released today by civil rights organizations.

In fact, 26 percent of all those deported nationwide because of the program -- which checks the immigration status of everyone booked into county jails -- are non-criminals, with the rate climbing as high as 82 percent in some jurisdictions.

San Francisco Sheriff Mike Hennessey, who unsuccessfully attempted to opt San Francisco out of the program, participated in a conference call about the statistics today. Immigration and Customs Enforcement "is throwing a gill net over the concept of immigration reform," Hennessey said. "It sweeps up all the little people with their intention of deporting serious violent criminals." Under the program, which launched in San Francisco in June, the fingerprints of anyone booked in county jail are checked against the Department of Homeland Security's database, automatically identifying anyone who's had previous contact with immigration authorities. 

The statistics were requested in an April lawsuit filed by the Center For Constitutional Rights, the Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University, and the National Day Laborer's Organizers Network.

Among the findings released today:
  • 79 percent of people deported due to the Secure Communities program are non-criminals or were picked up for crimes punishable by less than one year in jail.
  • While nationally, 28 percent of all deportations are of non-criminals, that number differs greatly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. This raises civil liberty advocates' suspicions that law enforcement may be using the program to racially profile Hispanics for arrests on charges that are later dropped. Law enforcement officers are aware that merely booking someone into jail means the arrestee's fingerprints will be run against the ICE database and expose them to potential deportation.
  • The percentage of non-criminals being deported goes as high as 82 percent in Travis, Texas; to 63 percent in San Diego; 58 percent in Santa Barbara; and 54 percent in Sheriff Joe Arpaio's stomping grounds of Maricopa County, Ariz.  
"It has a chilling effect on cooperation between local law enforcement and the minority community and in San Francisco, especially the Hispanic community," Hennessey said. "Witnesses won't come forward, victims, particularly of domestic violence, won't report crime because of fear of being deported."

ICE responded today with a blanket statement: "To date, the program has identified more than 262,900 aliens in jails and prisons who have been charged with or convicted of criminal offenses, including more than 39,000 charged with or convicted of major violent or drug offenses, and led to the removal of over 34,600 convicted criminal aliens, including more than 9,800 convicted of major violent or drug offenses. DHS continues to monitor the program's
effectiveness and is committed to identifying and removing serious criminals."

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