August 5, 2011 – Amid a growing chorus of national criticism of the flawed “Secure” Communities or S-Comm program, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) earlier today unilaterally canceled memorandums of agreement with 39 states over the program (including California) and announced that those states would still be forced to participate in the program without any sort of local oversight or accountability. S-Comm has faced significant opposition for undermining public safety and operating without transparency or local oversight.
Background: ICE’s maneuver follows decisions by the Governors of New York, Massachusetts, and Illinois to end or suspend participation in the program earlier this year, and comes just days before an “Advisory committee” – which advocates had deemed “wholly inadequate” – was to begin a series of hearings on the program. Meanwhile, California’s TRUST Act (AB 1081-Ammiano), which would limit the state’s participation in the flawed program and allow counties to tailor participation based on local needs, passed the State Assembly (47-26) in May and the Senate Public Safety Committee (5-2) in July. Below are statements by Assemblymember Ammiano, author of the TRUST Act, and a coalition of leading civil rights and community groups:
Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D-CA 13): “ICE’s outrageous announcement is an affront to both public safety and the most basic principles of democratic governance and transparency. If the Administration truly had the authority to force this dysfunctional program down the throats of every local government, why would they waste thousands of hours signing binding contracts with state officials across the country?”
Ammiano continued: “S-Comm has torn more than 40,000 Californians from their families, 70% of whom were presumed innocent or brought in for crimes as minor as selling food without a permit. Immigrants want to live in safe communities, but the program is shattering trust between immigrant victims and witnesses of crime and police. It’s far past time to pull the plug on this disastrous program, and I will continue to push for California to take a leadership role in advancing real solutions.”
The following statement is released on behalf of the Asian Law Caucus, the ACLU of California, the California Immigrant Policy Center, the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, and PICO California:
“Today’s announcement is a shocking display of bad faith on the part of an agency that continues to overstep its bounds and trample on basic constitutional precepts in the process. US District Judge Shira Scheindlin’s strong condemnation of ICE’s deception in her ruling last month bears repeating: “There is ample evidence that ICE and DHS have gone out of their way to mislead the public about its ‘Secure Communities’ program.
We call on California Governor Jerry Brown and Attorney General Kamala Harris to exercise leadership at this critical time, and launch a thorough review of ICE’s repeated misrepresentations and deception.
The fact is, neither the federal government nor states like Arizona and Alabama can force our local police to act as immigration agents, especially when public safety is grievously harmed. Today’s attempt to tie the hands of states who are seeking to uphold signed agreements does nothing to fix our broken immigration system, and everything to make matters worse. In fact, it confirms that the Department of Homeland Security’s much celebrated “reforms” to S-Comm and “Advisory committee” are nothing more than window-dressing.”
Additional background information: Internal ICE documents show state Memorandums are required
Internal ICE documents uncovered from a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit reveal a drastically different position from today’s announcement. In August 2010, then S-Comm Assistant Director Venturella further clarified to Barbara Leen, Counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee and staffer for Senator Feinstein, in a meeting with aides from offices within the California Congressional Delegation that S-Comm requires a state MOA because the State Identification Bureau possesses and controls how fingerprint data is used
From document ICE FOIA 10-2674.0013231:
“Ms. Leen said she has received conflicting information that suggested the local jurisdictions would have to enter into an agreement with ICE under SC, but based upon the information being provided, it appears that the agreement is with the state. Mr. Venturella confirmed that the formal agreement is with the state because they own the data systems at the state level and control what is submitted to federal authorities. Further, state and local law enforcement agencies are “users” of the system so any requests related to how information is used is made by the state.”
Press Release from Asian Law Caucus, ACLU of CA, CIPC, CHIRLA, NDLON, PICO California, and Asm. Tom Ammiano. Posted by Angela Chan, Staff Attorney, Asian Law Caucus.