Opinion: Immigration Program’s End Does Little to Quell Concerns

Secure Communities, an immigration enforcement program that identifies and deports immigrants with criminal convictions, has been criticized by some Latino publications who say the program targets Latinos. A study conducted by the University of California, Berkeley last year revealed that approximately 88,000 families with U.S. citizen members have been affected by S-Comm’s detainment of a family member. This piece was translated from the Polish newspaper Nowy Dziennik.

President Barack Obama has decided to withdraw funding for the Immigration and Nationality Act Section 287 (g), a controversial program that allowed local police to cooperate with federal immigration authorities and had been in force since 2006. This is certainly good news for immigrants, although dropping the initiative does not mean that federal authorities will not continue with other programs that target immigrants. Secure Communities, a federal program which involves checking the fingerprints of people detained by local police against a federal database, for instance, will still be funded.

Section 287 (g) was a strange initiative, and immigrants did not have enough time to learn about its significance. Contrary to Section 245 (i) of the Legal Immigration Family Equity Act, which offered immigrants hope and the possibility of legalizing their status, Section 287 (g) gave cause for concern. It allowed federal and local authorities to cooperate together to pursue foreigners who committed federal crimes. A couple dozen state agencies and local police departments participated in this program.

At first, the plan of action was open to interpretation. However, it became clear that  local authorities could only detain immigrants who were suspected of murder, rape, felonies, assaults, kidnapping or selling drugs. As time passed, an increasing number of local police stopped cooperating with federal authorities and argued that it was not their responsibility to enforce federal immigration law.  The Department of Homeland Security also noticed that local police did not receive the necessary training in order to enforce the Section 287 (g) program.

Immigration advocates expressed serious concerns about the initiative. They claimed that despite the limitations of the program, it allowed local sheriffs and police to hunt down immigrants and charge them with the pettiest counts. Furthermore, it did not address issues important to the Latino community, which had effectively prevented the racial profiling of immigrants [to some degree]. The American Civil Liberties Union also protested against the program.

Dropping Section 287 (g) does not mean the end of the controversy surrounding immigration initiatives. S-Comm has attracted a range of similar complaints as those directed at Section 287(g), although S-Comm seems to be a more practical option to spend taxpayers’ money on. Local authorities prefer S-Comm because it does not require them to interfere with matters under federal jurisdiction. The program also brings concrete effects, such as detaining serious offenders.

Edited by Justin Chan

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