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Since the late 2008,when the program Secure Communities initiated,there has been confusion about its enforcement and its interpretations.
Documents containing hundreds of messages, mostly copies of emails sent between officials of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and public relations advisers from early 2009 and the present time,show all the uncertainty and the misunderstanding created by this obscure and vague program.
“I’m totally confused now. I’ve got so many versions of the opt-out language I don’t know what’s current and what’s not. It seems like we have different language for different purposes and it’s confusing. Can we put this on today’s agenda to talk about?”
This is one of the emails,written on June 2010 by a member of the ICE staff who expressed his perplexity on the question,and it is just one of the many collected by the National Day Labourers Organizing Network with the help of the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Cardozo School of Law.
Secure Communities is a program wanted by the Obama administration to enforce the laws of immigration and crime and,by 2013 it should be spread to all local jurisdictions in any states. It consists of a collaboration between the state and the local police. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) databases are put at their disposal to check either the criminal records and the immigration history of those immigrants who are arrested.
Since the program started in 2008 has led to the deportation of about 58.300 immigrants with criminal convictions but, groups of immigrants advocacy opposing to the program say that in reality it has led to the unjust deportation of thousands of illegal immigrants with no criminal records or of people arrested just for minor traffic infractions, tearing established families apart.
According to ICE are 39 the states where Secure Communities is at the present time. Still many states are opposing the enforcement of the program. New Jersey, the state with the nation’s sixth largest immigrant population, is one of those refusing to join it and also supporting the protest against the inefficiency of Secure Communities.
The confusion is mostly related to the fact that it’s not clear whether the program is voluntary or mandatory. Can the local law enforcement agencies opt out of it or not?
Over these years the responses of ICE have been different and conflicting, changing every time. There isn’t any legal and official mandate that indicates the program enforcement is mandatory, but DHS decided in October 2010 that local jurisdictions could not opt out of Secure Communities, giving no clear explanations about the legality of this imposition. Thus the doubts about the constitutionality of making the program mandatory are still strong.
Moreover even at the technical level it is totally confusing how exactly should the criminal identification process work. The FBI databases are shared with the DHS databases now,so apparently there is no way, technically, to limit the ICE’s filtering by the local jurisdiction, even if those refuse to participate to the program.
Highlighting all these problems due to the conflict and the obscurity of the program,the immigration advocates oppose strongly Secure Communities, pointing the question that immigration is a federal problem and any state should enforce specific federal laws and, especially should be free to opt out of the program.
So can a state law so vague and confusing be enforced obligatory by every local jurisdiction?