Enough with deportations and Secure Communities

Mariel Fiori

Mariel Fiori

The deportation of immigrants has increased exponentially. We know this because of the cases we unfortunately hear and read about every day. More than one million people have been deported since the beginning of the Obama administration.

Last year, there were almost 400,000 deportations, and more than 300,000 people are currently awaiting deportation proceedings. Deportations do not solve any problems; rather, they exacerbate them, as there is no immigration reform in sight and no consolation for the thousands of families affected, not even relief for the local economies that are left without manual labor, as is being seen in Alabama, for example.

The main cause of these mass deportations  is the infamous S-Comm program (or Secure Communities), a collaboration between local police and immigration authorities.

A new study, “Safe Communities in Numbers: An Analysis of Demographics and Due Process,” [pdf] blames the S-Comm program for illegal arrests of immigrants and detention and deportation without a hearing and without representation. It suggests racial discrimination and warns that a major concern is that U.S. citizens are being arrested as well. Most of the people arrested in the rapidly growing federal immigration program are jailed without bail, without access to a lawyer and without a hearing in court, according to the report.

S-Comm counts on the support of local police in order to catch non-citizens and deport them. The digital fingerprints of people in local jails (many for minor infractions) are sent to the Department of Homeland Security to verify their immigration status. This has allowed police to allow immigration officers to verify the immigration status of anyone detained in jail.

The report, from the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy at the University of California, Berkeley Law School, is the first detailed analysis of information about S-Comm. Its data were attained through the Freedom of Information Act.

The main findings of this study include:

  • 3,600 U.S. citizens have been arrested by ICE through the S-Comm program, despite the fact that citizens, by definition, should not be subjected to immigration detention.
  • 88,000 families with U.S. citizen members have been affected by S-Comm through the arrest of a family member.
  • Latinos represent 93% of the people arrested through S-Comm, despite making up 77% of the undocumented immigrant population in the United States.
  • Only 52% of the people arrested through S-Comm were scheduled for a hearing before an immigration judge.
  • Only 24% of people arrested through S-Comm who received a hearing were represented by an attorney. In contrast, 41% of all defendants who go before immigration court had legal representation.
  • Only 2% of non-citizens arrested through S-Comm were saved from deportation by an immigration judge. In comparison, 14% of all defendants at immigration court are granted this benefit.
  • The grand majority, 83%, of people arrested through S-Comm remain detained by ICE, in comparison with the average people detained by the Department of Homeland Security of 62%. It doesn’t appear that ICE exercise any type of discretion when deciding to detain the people arrested through S-Comm.

“The wrongful arrest of thousands of U.S. citizens demonstrates that, too often, ICE’s protocol is arrest first, investigate second. This flies in the face of the Constitution. With these numbers finally public, ICE must confront the deep flaws in the program that have led to these wrongful arrests and to the disproportionate targeting of young Latino men,” said Professor Peter L. Markowitz, director of the Kathryn O. Greenberg Immigration Justice Clinic and co-author of the study.

The report recommends increasing the transparency of the program, adding safeguards to prevent the arrests of U.S. citizens, investigating evidence of discrimination against Latinos, providing access to lawyers and suspending the program until these recommendations are followed. From La Voz, we ask the same thing: Stop the deportations and enough with S-Comm.

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