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Janet Napolitano on Immigration: What You Should Know
The Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, selected as the 2010 Pomona College Commencement speaker, wants to not only continue the harmful and discriminatory immigration policies that were implemented under the Bush Administration, but significantly expand them. Under the supervision of Secretary Napolitano, the Department of Homeland Security has been accused of unethically using quotas to boost enforcement numbers in both the U.S. Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), expand the enforcement of federal immigration laws by local police and sheriffs agencies, widespread violations in the immigration detention system, increased workplace raids, coordinated street raids between Border Patrol and local police, and the expansion of the E-Verify program to check work authorization.
State and local police have become increasingly enmeshed in the enforcement of federal immigration law, while this relationship is largely unregulated and unchallenged. The programs through which these policies are implemented have been found to lack transparency, accountability, and oversight, and they have not met their priorities to target “serious criminal aliens.” A recent study from the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security has found widespread misuse among these programs, including not having sufficient mechanisms in place to ensure a focus on non-citizens convicted of serious criminal offenses and the potential to violate basic civil rights.
There are 13 separate local immigration enforcement programs, but two have been under the most scrutiny: the 287g Program and Secure Communities. The 287 Program allows local law enforcement officers to enforce federal immigration laws. Secure Communities, begun in 2008, allows for the crosschecking of arrestees’ fingerprints with the federal immigration database during the booking process and referral to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, regardless of the reason for arrest. And unlike the 287g program, Secure Communities has no publicized standard operating procedure or official written agreement administering the program. Amnesty International and immigrant advocates warn that the change could lead to immigration checks in other arenas and the "criminalization" of illegal immigration.1
What does this mean?
First of all, the suspected criminal is run though the immigration database before any investigation into his or her guilt. This process, which receives very little oversight and has no mechanism for filing complaints, leads to often arbitrary arrest and detention thus obliterating the due process rights guaranteed by the Constitution. Suspected undocumented immigrants have been arrested for loitering, jaywalking, riding bicycles on sidewalks, and not wearing a seatbelt arguably in order to have them go through the immigration screening process in the jails.
Secondly, 287(g) and Secure Communities effectively turn local and state police into enforcers of immigration laws, creating a widespread culture of fear and distrust. This creates obstacles to community policing because individuals become justifiably reluctant to report crimes, talk to the police, or testify in criminal cases.
Although the Department of Homeland Security claims to “prioritize criminal aliens for enforcement action based on their threat to public safety,” the reality is that the program creates incentives for law enforcement to arrest people on a pre-textual basis in order to cast the widest net possible. ICE divides criminals into 3 levels:
Level 1 –Felonies such as major drug offenses and violent crimes.
Level 2 –Minor drug offenses and non-violent felonies.
Level 3 –Everyone else.
(A level 3 offender could be arrested on charges as minor as traffic violations or loitering, giving police near complete discretion over when to detain a suspected undocumented immigrant.)
According to a report by the National Institute of Corrections, as of March 22, 2009, 170,000 sets of fingerprints had been reviewed pursuant to the Secure Communities program. Of these, matches were found for 19,495 individuals, only 1,436 of whom were identified as level 1 criminals. Of the remaining number, more than 17,000 of those identified had been arrested for “lesser” crimes.2 A detailed case study of the Secure Communities program in Irving, Texas showed a dramatic rise in “discretionary arrests of Hispanics for petty offenses,” primarily Class C misdemeanors which carry a fine of no more than $500.3 The Customs and Border Protection’s own statistics show that in 2008, only .02% of apprehensions were serious criminals – only 200 people out of more than 1 million apprehensions.4
The policies advocated by Secretary Napolitano have been widely denounced by immigrants’ and human rights groups. The ACLU recently stated that the 287(g) Program is “fundamentally flawed and incompetently administered,” presenting “serious civil rights and civil liberties problems for U.S. citizens and immigrants” and should be immediately terminated. 5 Rather than reform the discriminatory process, however, Napolitano has called for Secure Communities to be expanded to every one of the nation’s 3,100 state and local jails by 2013. Furthermore, the ICE spokesman has publicly stated that local enforcement programs will continue to process suspected criminal aliens for petty offenses, and “would continue to do so indefinitely.”6
Finally, Secretary Napolitano has allowed for the infamous Sheriff Joe Arpaio to keep his 287g agreement in the Phoenix jails even though he has over 2,000 pending lawsuits against him for civil rights violations, unlawful detention conditions, and racial profiling.7
See Video of Local Border Patrol/Police Immigration Raids in Riverside and Rancho Cucamonga: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wxt-X88UZHw