Secure Communities Police State

By: Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - CommentaryLast week, the federal government started the Secure Communities program in New York state. The program, initiated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, is a cooperative program between U.S. immigration and local and state law enforcement authorities to try and catch, jail and deport dangerous undocumented and even legal resident fugitives in the United States. It may sound straightforward, but it is not. There are at least three problems with the program that should be noted. First, states cannot opt out of it. In the beginning, the federal government told the states that the Secure Communities program was “voluntary.” However, when Illinois Governor Pat Quinn pulled out of the program, the federal government told him that this was not possible, and that the Secure Communities program was going to be implemented whether the state liked it or not.

Second, the Secure Communities program actually creates profiling. It has unfairly targeted Latinos, and this makes the entire program discriminatory. Finally, what if the entire program were applied to all? I am not just talking about undocumented or even legal foreign residents, but also U.S. citizens. Under the program, police can stop someone either committing a crime or suspected of committing a crime and have their fingerprints and identity checked by U.S. immigration to see if they are a foreign criminal. Sadly, the Secure Communities program has also ensnared innocent undocumented people, legal permanent residents and even U.S. citizens because of goof-ups by U.S. immigration. And there are cases where police profile, arrest and jail innocent people for doing nothing at all just on the mere suspicion that they might be “alien criminals.” This is among the reasons why Illinois Governor Quinn and a number of other states want to opt out of the Secure Communities program. It creates serious suspicion between local communities and law enforcement, and in the end it does not help law enforcement catch the criminals for the most part.

In short, the program does not justify the effort, the “cooperation” between the federal and state governments, and the money that must be spent to implement it. The program was in fact implemented in New York state over the serious objections of New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Like Illinois Governor Quinn, both see it as actually interfering with the work of career police officers and departments that simply try to nail criminals and criminal elements based on reasonable suspicion and on the evidence and regardless of their immigration background. They both believe that such a program will destroy the cooperation between local immigrant communities and local and state law enforcement that has taken years to build up. It seems that the federal government, rather than do a case study of whether such a program really works, has and is trying to ram this thing down the throats of all state governments. As the feds try to implement this program throughout all of the states, it will find itself in the middle of fightback efforts by other state politicians, powerful protests from civil and human rights organizations as well as whole communities, and a whole lot of lawsuits.

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