DHS Releases Two Reports on Secure Communities

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WASHINGTON — The Department of Homeland Security's Office of the Inspector-General today released two reports regarding the Secure Communities federal immigration enforcement program.

Under Secure Communities, police share the fingerprints of all arrestees with federal immigration authorities. Implemented in 2008, the program has expanded rapidly and is expected to be active in all counties nationwide by 2013. Althought the program's goal is to prioritize the deportation of those with a criminal record, it has led to the deportation of thousands of immigrants with no criminal records. Critics also charge that officials have given local police and governments mixed messages about whether they can opt out of the program.

In April 2011, Representative Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., requested that the DHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) conduct an investigation to determine whether false and misleading statements may have been made intentionally during the Secure Communities implementation.

"We did not find evidence that ICE intentionally misled the publicor States and local jurisdictions during implementation of Secure Communities," the Officer of Inspector General reported. "However, ICE did not clearly communicate to stakeholders the intent of Secure Communities and their expected participation... ICE senior leadership also missed opportunities to provide clear direction toits officials implementing Secure Communities. As a result, three years after implementation began, Secure Communities continues to face opposition, criticism, and resistance in some locations."

The report had three recommendations for Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which ICE has agreed to implement. These include releasing guidance and criteria that specifically outline the intent and expectations of Secure Communities and specify which aspects are optional for states and local law enforcement agencies; coordinating with the Department of Homeland Security to establish protocols to ensure that DHS and ICE provide the necessary direction, guidance, oversight, and support for the intent and implementation of new immigration enforcement programs; and generate a lessons learned document and plan for DHS to use in future immigration and enforcement program development and implementation.

Civil rights groups contended that the reports did not adequately address their grievances with the Secure Communities program.

“Today's reports do nothing to address the well-founded criticisms of S-Comm that have been coming from all corners of the country for the past four years,” said Kate Desormeau, staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project. “The reports ignore the reality that this misguided program has led to unwarranted detention, arrests and deportations of victims, witnesses and other innocent people, including U.S. citizens. If the Department of Homeland Security is serious about resolving the widespread civil rights abuses this flawed program is causing and the mistrust it is creating in our communities, it would end the program now.”