Dear Obama: Stop the Secure Communities Program
I want to love Obama. I really really want him to do well, to do right. And unlike many people I talk to, I believe that he has done a pretty good job considering the tasks he inherited upon coming into office.
But there is one thing that is happening under the Obama administration that I cannot forgive: a huge increase in deportations. Since Obama took office, 1 million immigrants have been deported from the United States. This is largely due to the increasing implementation of Secure Communities (also known as S-Comm), a federally-funded program designed to aid in identifying undocumented criminals in order to deport them out of the United States. S-Comm requires that anyone who passes through the hands of law enforcement be checked within the ICE and FBI databases to see if they are documented, and whether they have committed other crimes. The idea is to protect American citizens from immigrants who are committing crimes. However, ”a large proportion of those deported through this process — 79 percent— were low-level offenders, often arrested for traffic violations” (NYTimes article). So is it really working? Obama has announced a plan for S-Comm to be fully implemented in the United States by 2013, but for now many states and counties are choosing not to use the program. The principle complaint is that it causes a distrust in local law enforcement (can’t imagine why), so that immigrants choose not to call the police when they need help for fear that they will be entered into the system. States such as Massachusetts, Illinois and New York have withdrawn ”their participation in S-Comm precisely because local police officials complained that community members have been afraid to cooperate with police” (NYTimes article).
Following the logic of S-Comm, everyday citizens are in grave danger of being hurt or affected by crimes committed by undocumented immigrants. However, according to this NYTimes article,
“Crime involving illegal immigrants is relatively rare (5 percent of all local crime). Mostly it consists of burglaries involving stolen food. And, public records show, in 11 of the 18 violent crimes linked to illegal immigrants over 18 months, immigrants were both the victims and attackers.” If you have gone through the enormous, often life-threatening effort to immigrate to the U.S. with documents, would you risk that all by committing a crime against someone?
So, Obama, do you really think this is working? You are deporting record-breaking numbers of immigrants for petty crimes often related to their undocumented status (ex: driving without a license), sending them to government-sanctioned prisons (also known as Detention Centers) often for months at a time, before sending them back to their country, all to protect American citizens? Well I don’t feel protected. I’m more worried about the billions of tax dollars being poured into an ineffective program that threatens the viability of law enforcement and targets people of color.
What about the fact that the rise in this program coincides with an increased militarization of the U.S.-Mexican border? Looking back, I thought we had learned that militarizing the border does not stop people from crossing, it simply changes who comes in, as border crossing becomes more and more dangerous both for those crossing it and patrolling it. The crime situation around the border has become increasingly severe, yet we continue to target people driving without a license? David Shirk from this NYTimes article puts it perfectly when he says ”If you think drug dealers and terrorists are much more dangerous than maids and gardeners, then we should get as many visas as possible to those people, so we can focus on the real threat. Widening the gates would strengthen the walls.”
So, Dear President Obama. Stop. Secure Communities is not working, and these immigrants aren’t your real target. Let’s work towards immigration reform that helps us integrate undocumented immigrants into our society so that they can continue to support the American economy like they have for decades. But maybe this time, they could live as human beings, not illegal aliens. I think that would be a fair exchange.
For more information read: Top 3 Myths and Facts of the Obama Administration on Immigration