(CN) – Civil liberties groups say the immigration service has abused its so-called “Secure Communities” program and want New York state to stop cooperating with the program, which is supposed to target criminals for deportation, but has not done so. Los Angeles City Council members also expressed doubts about the program this week.
Citing government statistics, the New York Civil Liberties Union says that 82 percent of New Yorker residents who were deported through Secure Communities program had not been convicted of a crime, and that 71 percent of immigrants handed over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from the criminal justice system had not been convicted of a crime.
Under Secure Communities, police are required to cross-reference fingerprints of arrested people with immigration records. As in the similar program in which employers are supposed to check workers’ and job applicants’ records with the Social Security system, mistakes have abounded.
“Secure Communities is not a public safety measure,” NYCLU spokesman Udi Ofer said. “It’s a dragnet that tears apart families, invites racial profiling and creates distrust between police and immigrant communities. Gov. Cuomo should immediately withdraw the state from this destructive federal program.”
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn withdrew from the program this month, and some California legislators have expressed their opposition.
Los Angeles City Councilman Bernard C. Parks and Councilwoman Jan Perry proposed a law on Tuesday that would make the program optional for counties, and would require the fingerprints only of convicted felons to be run through immigration databases.
In an April letter to Secure Communities Assistant Director Marc Rapp, ICE contractor Dan Cadman wrote that he was fired after told New York officials that they could opt out of Secure Communities.
Cadman wrote that he was made a “scapegoat” and that ICE “felt politically exposed and embarrassed” by the confusion surrounding its program. Critics of Secure Communities say that Cadman’s letter reinforces their contention that ICE intentionally misled New York.