The majority of people arrested in the Secure Communities program are being jailed without bond, without access to a lawyer and without a court hearing, according to a new report from Berkeley University, the first-ever in-depth study.
Secure Communities by the Numbers: An Analysis of Demographics and Due Process [PDF] finds that there have been thousands of wrongful arrests of U.S. citizens and tens of thousands of families are being split apart.
The data was obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. The controversial program relies on the cooperation of local law enforcement and a number of localities have rejected cooperation. Fingerprints from individuals booked into local jails — many on minor infractions — are sent to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to be checked. Effectively, federal immigration checks are run on everyone booked into a local jail.
Aarti Kohli, director of immigration policy at the Warren Institute and lead author of the report, said in a press statement announcing the report:
“The results are disturbing because they point to a system that is funneling people towards deportation without due process. Based on our findings, we recommend that the Department of Homeland Security suspend the program until the government addresses the issues we identify, particularly wrongful U.S. citizen arrests, potential racial profiling, and lack of discretion in detention.”
Lisa Chavez, Senior Research Associate at the Warren Institute and a co-author adds:
“We had unprecedented access to federal data on ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] arrests, detentions, and deportations of people who are pulled in through Secure Communities. By following the numbers, we were able to construct a picture of who is being arrested and what happens to them after their immigration arrest.”
Key findings from the report include:
Says professor Peter L. Markowitz, director of the Kathryn O. Greenberg Immigration Justice Clinic at Cardozo School of Law, a co-author of the report:
“The wrongful arrest of thousands of U.S. citizens demonstrates that, too often, ICE’s protocol is arrest first, investigate second. This flies in the face of the Constitution. With these numbers finally public, ICE must confront the deep flaws in the program that have led to these wrongful arrests and to the disproportionate targeting of young Latino men.”
“The government’s own data has consistently shown that most of the people impacted by this program have no criminal record or are low-level offenders. To lock these people up in detention centers without access to attorneys or an opportunity to see a judge is undemocratic,” said Kohli.
He told the New York Times:
“If this is the quality of due process with regard to U.S. citizens we should all be terrified with regard to immigrants who are targets of immigration enforcement.”
The report recommends:
Photo credit:Say No to Secure Communities Program
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