Yesterday courageous undocumented students risked deportation when they were arrested in Chicago for protesting Secure Communities. The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH), stands with these activists and alongside other organizations nationwide that are calling on the Administration to end the controversial immigration enforcement program, Secure Communities, better known as S-Comm. If there ever was a time to advocate for the importance of safe communities, the time is now!
How does S-Comm work?
Under S-Comm when an individual is arrested, his/her fingerprints are sent to federal immigration databases. If the arrestee’s fingerprints match a record indicating an immigration violation, ICE and local law enforcement are notified. In most cases, ICE issues a detainer requesting that the jail facility hold the individual up to an extra 48 hours, interviews the arrestee, and decides whether to seek removal of that individual.
Women, communities at risk
While the phrase secure communities inarguably means protecting and keeping communities safe, when it comes to immigrants, our government is doing everything but that. Not only does S-Comm put immigrant women, their families, and their communities in danger, it perpetuates fear in survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. This program also threatens the progress that our country has made in the last three decades to bring violence against women out from behind closed doors by making women afraid to call the police for help, for fear of arrest and deportation if they are undocumented.
This threat has become even more vivid to women and their families recently. In the past several months, some localities have announced that they would no longer participate in the program and would not maintain contracts for the program with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) because it was hindering their ability to keep their communities safe. On August 5th, DHS announced that it was going to implement the program whether or not they had a contract with local police authorities. DHS said it will terminate all contracts with states and localities and proceed without contracts in further implementing the program nationwide, despite calls for the agency to suspend the program. States will no longer have the option to implement the program, they will have to submit to the demands of the federal government. Still, the administration insists that S-Comm keeps communities safe, but the truth of the matter is that it does not.
Protecting and serving communities, stymied
S-Comm has had a significant impact on community policing strategies because it undermines local law enforcement’s commitment to keeping communities safe. Enforcement-only policies create an atmosphere of fear, which threatens the trust of the community. This only makes it harder to capture criminals.
Another reason states and municipalities oppose this decision is because states will be required to fully implement this program with no assistance from the federal government. Clearly, this places a financial burden on already stretched local and state resources to the limit fighting local crime, with no incentives to local communities. Many states are already struggling to hold on to precious resources that are sustaining important programs and services for communities that so vitally need them.
What is being done? What can you do?
Earlier this month, NLIRH, alongside 60 local and national organizations launched our Second Annual Latina Week of Action for Reproductive Justice to bring to light the stark reality that hard working women and families are faced with everyday in their rather unsafe communities. We also applaud the authoritative report by he National Day Labor Organizing Network entitled, Restoring Community: A National Community Advisory Report on ICE’s failed “Secure Communities” Program that uses facts about the program to cut away at rhetoric. And as we saw yesterday in Chicago, a nationwide effort has been under way this week to put pressure on the Administration to stop this program. We urge you to take action too.
At NLIRH, we could not think of a program that is more unfair to communities and intrusive of basic human rights.
 Center for Reproductive Rights. Briefing Paper: Reproductive Rights Violations as Torture and Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment: A Critical Human Rights Analysis. New York City, NY: Center for Reproductive Rights;2010:26. Available at: http://reproductiverights.org/en/document/reproductive-rights-violations-as-torture. Accessed on August 4, 2011.