Feds Misuse Fingerprints to Create Mini-Arizonas Hostile to Immigrants

Remember the dangerous criminal aliens that President Obama deported at record levels?

Well, it looks like immigrant rights advocates were correct all along in asserting that a large number of deportees were non-violent undocumented workers, contrary to the data put out by the federal government.

Earlier this year, advocates sued for the disclosure of government records relating to the so-called “Secure Communities” (S-Comm) program of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Agency that is supposed to target dangerous criminal aliens for deportation. To the chagrin of right-wingers and to pacify immigrant rights advocates, the Obama Administration insisted that ICE had changed its enforcement priorities to focus on more dangerous U.S. non-citizens. The ICE union passed a unanimous no-confidence motion against ICE Director John Morton for not focusing on his job.  Even the New York Times ran a misleading piece yesterday about how the White House was sparing student deportations in order to focus on the real criminal aliens. But the FOIA documents tell a different story.

The misnamed Secure Communities program is actually doing a great job of removing gardeners and construction workers from the country, instead of murderers and rapists. Local law enforcement under the S-Comm program collect and send fingerprints of each person arrested to ICE for immigration check. ICE keeps the fingerprint data and oftentimes initiates deportation if the person is in the country without proper legal status, regardless of whether the initial charges are later proven unlawful or dismissed.

“These records reveal a dangerous trend,” said Pablo Alvarado, Executive Director of the National Day Labor Organizing Network (NDLON), which filed the FOIA. “This program creates an explosion of Arizona-like enforcement at a time when the results have proven disastrous. Thanks to S-Comm, we face the potential proliferation of racial profiling, distrust of local police, fear, and xenophobia to every zip code in America.”

The Center for Constitutional Rights states that the information sharing program actually functions as a “dragnet for funneling people into the mismanaged ICE detention and removal system, potentially creating mini-Arizonas in hundreds of jurisdictions.” Currently, 494 counties and local and state agencies in 27 states are using the S-Comm program while the Obama Administration wants to make it nationwide by 2013.

An overwhelming majority of Americans believe that being without legal status makes one a criminal, which is not true. Illegal overstay is a civil violation, not a crime. Focusing law enforcement priorities on removing immigrants who simply came here to work makes little sense, misplaces local law enforcement priorities, and promotes crimes due to increased community distrust of the police. It’s certainly not making our communities secure, and it’s time to put a stop to it.

Photo Credit: fazen

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