FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
July 20, 2011
Adela de la Torre, NILC, (213) 674-2832; email@example.com
LOS ANGELES, Calif. – The National Immigration Law Center joined more than 200 civil rights organizations to denounce the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS’s) recently formed advisory committee on Secure Communities (S-Comm). In a letter to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) director John Morton, the groups expressed deep disappointment in the advisory committee, which will be virtually unable to make significant recommendations to fix this fundamentally flawed program.
“By funneling hundreds of thousands of parents, children, students, and others into the deportation pipeline, S-Comm has effectively severed an already-tenuous tie between communities of color and local law enforcement,” said Nora Preciado, staff attorney at the National Immigration Law Center. “Instead of listening to the community and putting a moratorium on this program, DHS has simply applied window dressing in the form of an advisory committee without any real authority. This is not the ‘reform’ we were hoping for.”
Members of the newly-created advisory committee, which include law enforcement officials, ICE agents, and immigrants’ rights advocates, were appointed without public input. The committee’s scope is limited to suggestions about treatment of individuals identified as a result of minor traffic offenses. The committee has no authority to stem the deportations of hundreds of thousands of community members caught in the S-Comm dragnet.
The controversial program has sparked outcry among immigrant and law enforcement communities across the country, prompting governors from Illinois, New York, and Massachusetts to request that their states be allowed to opt-out of S-Comm. The California legislature is also considering the TRUST Act, legislation that would put the power back in local hands to determine if participation in S-Comm comports with community policing concerns.
In May, Angelenos were shocked to learn that S-Comm triggered deportation proceedings for Isaura Gomez, a mother who called 911 to protect herself from her abusive boyfriend.
ICE’s practices and policies have been shrouded in secrecy since the program’s inception. Civil rights organizations, including the National Day Labor Organizing Network, filed a lawsuit demanding that the government shed light on its practices. The documents procured as a result of the suit, which were made public earlier this year, showed that ICE used misleading definitions of “voluntary” and “opt out” to allow room for the agency to expand implementation of the program.
“For too long, ICE has rebuffed public and private pleas for accountability and transparency on a program that has wreaked havoc on our communities,” said Melissa Keaney, an attorney with the National Immigration Law Center. “We hope this letter will serve a wake-up call to ICE: we will not be placated by toothless advisory committees and cosmetic changes. We demand that ICE put the brakes on the fatally flawed ‘S-Comm.’”
A copy of the letter to ICE director John Morton is available at https://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/371/images/FINALSCommMortonLtr.pdf.