Jul 11, 2010

New York becomes a "Secure Community" State

Via The Wall Street Journal and Vivir Latino, "New York has signed onto a controversial federal program that will allow jails in some communities to begin checking the immigration status of every person booked." To further this program, referred to as "Secure Communities," the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the I.C.E. which will allow undocumented immigrants to be identified for deportation. "Secure Communities" is a program initiated by President George W. Bush aimed and expanded by the Obama Administration. In four years, the measure could result in a tenfold increase in undocumented immigrants identified for deportation, current and former U.S. officials said.

Although the program supposedly prioritizes the deportation of undocumented immigrants convicted of 'serious criminal offenses,' it has been criticized for targeting low-level criminal offenders for deportation, as well as those who have been charged with a crime, but not convicted. "In New York state, Secure Communities would replace the Criminal Alien Program, in which immigration agents seek out charged or convicted immigrants in county jails who are eligible for deportation. Secure Communities would have a substantially larger reach, and be more comprehensive." (uncoveringthetruth.org).

The program has received strong criticism by civil liberties organizations. Via uncoveringthetruth.org, "'Anytime anyone is arrested for anything and booked for anything, no matter how minor, their fingerprint gets sent to immigration,' said Bridget Kessler, a clinical teaching fellow at the Immigration Justice Clinic at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. 'It’s not a program where the police officer is actually deputized to enforce immigration law, but there’s a perception that police are running immigration checks because, in effect, they are.'The agreement between New York State and the immigration agency states that those charged with a crime, but not convicted, could be deported under the program. According to the dictates of the agreement, whether a person is actually guilty or innocent of a charged crime is not relevant."

According to the Wall Street Journal, "it's too early to tell if the program will be implemented in New York City, whose policies have been perceived as largely immigrant-friendly."