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ICE imposes “Secure Communities” deportation program in Minnesota

Immigrant rights groups plan protest
By Brad Sigal |
February 14, 2012
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No More Deportations campaign protest at MN Capitol, May 2011
No More Deportations campaign protest at MN Capitol, May 2011 (Fight Back! News/Staff)

Minneapolis, MN – On Feb. 7, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that they imposed the highly controversial “Secure Communities” deportation program on all 87 counties in Minnesota. In response, the Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee (MIRAc) announced a protest on Saturday, Feb. 18 at noon. The protest will start at People’s Plaza (300 S 6th Street, Minneapolis) and then march across the street to the Hennepin County Detention Center, one of the jails where this deportation program is now activated. Hennepin County Sheriff Richard Stanek, the controversial figure who is in charge of the Hennepin County jail, pushed hard for Minnesota to participate in Secure Communities.

According to Isaac Martin of MIRAc, “This news is horrifying. This program would compromise community safety and separate families here in Minnesota. We call on county and local officials to refuse to honor ICE detainer requests and we call on President Obama to end the horribly misnamed 'Secure Communities'. This program just doesn't make any communities more secure, and in fact it makes immigrant and Latino communities much more insecure by separating hundreds of thousands of parents from their children.”

Secure Communities is a deportation program run by ICE that operates in county and local jails. Under the program, anyone booked into jail for whatever reason has his or her fingerprints taken and run through a national FBI database to try to determine their immigration status. ICE flags people they think might be undocumented then takes them from the county jail to start a deportation process. The program has been the main culprit in the dramatic rise in deportations since President Obama took office. Under eight years of the Bush administration, 1.6 million people were deported. In contrast, after only three years of the current administration, there have already been 1.2 million deportations, a much higher annual rate.

The Secure Communities program claims to focus on deporting violent criminals. But since so many people that pass through county and local jails don’t ever end up getting charged with anything, and most are there for trivial or non-violent reasons, the vast majority of people deported under Secure Communities - more than 70%, according to data ICE was forced to release under a Freedom of Information lawsuit - are not criminals at all. Most immigrants that end up in the county jail are there because of things like being arrested due to being racially profiled while driving, not because they have done anything criminal.

Such racial profiling in traffic stops has been thoroughly documented in Minnesota via a study commissioned by the Minnesota legislature. The results of the resulting Minnesota Statewide Racial Profiling Study showed that:

“Law enforcement officers stopped Black, Latino, and American Indian drivers at greater rates than White drivers, searched Blacks, Latinos, and American Indians at greater rates than White drivers, and found contraband as a result of searches of Blacks, Latinos, and American Indians at lower rates than in searches of White drivers … These disparities are particularly large for Blacks and Latinos … The pattern for Blacks and Latinos existed in nearly every participating jurisdiction.”

This documented racial profiling, combined with the Secure Communities program, means that thousands of people who have done nothing wrong are getting pulled over just because they appear Latino or Black and then end up getting deported and having their families torn apart for no reason other than that they were driving to work and have dark skin. Once their fingerprints are run through ICE’s database via Secure Communities, they are likely to end up being deported even if they aren’t charged with or convicted of any crime.

When the program started, at ICE said the Secure Communities program was optional and that counties or states could opt out if they didn’t want to participate. So immigrant rights activists convinced several counties to vote to opt out of the program. In response, ICE changed the rules and declared that counties couldn’t opt out once their state had signed a contract for the program. Then activists convinced several states to vote to leave the program and ICE changed the rules yet again – voiding all the state contracts and announcing they would just implement the program themselves directly with county jails, against the will of states and counties that don’t want to participate.

The Feb. 7 announcement of imposing the program on all 87 Minnesota counties comes in that context. Minnesota was one of the few remaining states that hadn’t implemented the program in any counties. During last year’s state legislative session, Republican Senator Julianne Ortmann teamed up with Hennepin County Sheriff Stanek to try to sneak Secure Communities into a massive budget bill at the end of the legislative session. Immigrant rights activists were able to exert enough pressure so that Governor Dayton vetoed the bill and that section of the bill was removed. Now ICE has bypassed state leaders entirely, in an attempt to force local police and jails to act as ICE agents.

MIRAc is calling on President Obama to end the Secure Communities program nationally and is calling on Minnesota county sheriffs and county boards to refuse to honor ICE hold requests in the county jails. Currently, if ICE asks a local jail to hold someone past the time the local jail has finished their business with an individual, the jail then holds them for that extra time at the local jail’s own expense. Several counties across the U.S. - including Cook County, Illinois; Santa Clara County, California and Washington D.C. - are now changing their policies, so they will no longer cooperate with such unfunded ICE requests that lead to deportation. Such policy changes undercut jail-based deportation programs like Secure Communities and the “Criminal Alien Program”. Such changes in policy are spreading rapidly around the country in response to ICE’s repeated attempts to force cities and counties to massively deport people even when they don’t want to do so.

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