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Immigrant rights group takes issue with California's 'Secure Communities' program

by Christopher A. Guzman, published

As California enters its second week of full enrollment in the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency's Secure Communities program, a California-based immigrant rights group claims that it's creating an unsuitable environment for the state's illegal immigrant population. 

     "While publicly insisting that S-Comm targets the 'worst of the worst,' ICE's own data shows that a majority of those identified and ultimately deported are, in fact, low-level offenders or individuals without any criminal conviction. Simply put, with the chilling effect S-Comm is having on the public's relationship with the police, and the families being torn apart, our state is now increasingly made up of more insecure communities," said Jorge-Mario Cabrera, Communications and Public Relations director for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, in a Huffington Post op-ed.

In linking to the data and espousing the benefits of police policies that prohibit investigations based on immigration status, Cabrera also took issue with immigration legislation like Arizona's shot down SB 1070 and the voluntary 287 (g) program. The 287 (g) program, according to ICE, allows state and local authorities to receive delegated authority from the federal government for immigration enforcement within local jurisdictions.

As the Secure Communities policy is the most recent immigration enforcement measure being executed under the Obama administration, Mr. Cabrera justifiably takes issue with the confusion over whether the Secure Communities program was mandatory or voluntary. It's been established that the Department of Homeland Security didn't communicate this very effectively in the first place, according to previous reports and documents from the Department itself. For any piece of government legislation, especially concerning immigration policy, objectives should be clearly communicated to the American people.

While poor communication about the program may be evidence of bad government public relations, that doesn't make the program itself problematic (unless of course there is a widespread verifiable record of police officers harassing illegal immigrants without probable cause).  Also, even though Mr. Cabrera opposes illegal immigrants with lesser crimes being picked up by the federal government, this is simply the federal government carrying out its responsibility of enforcing immigration laws through new technology that connects them with local law enforcement.

Is the Secure Communities program problem-free? By no means. The federal government needs to clean up a system that allows for immigrants with protected status to be accidentally deported.  At the moment, however, there really isn't any legal justification for the Secure Communities program not to take effect in states like California. The federal government's task is to enforce current immigration laws. Given that the Democratic-controlled Congress failed to pass such measures like the Dream Act, there isn't another law on the books that the Obama administration can fall back upon in protecting those illegal immigrants who commit lesser crimes from being deported.

If congressional legislation (as immigration advocates desire) was enacted to prevent the "separation" of families or the deportation of "youth" brought here by no choice of their own, then I would venture to say that circumstances would probably be a lot more favorable for immigration advocates who support comprehensive reform.  Ultimately, however, the bigger picture demonstrates that those concerned about immigration reform do not have a reliable ally in President Obama and will indeed have to look elsewhere for their much-desired reform.

During President Obama's election campaign and even during his presidency these first two and a half years, he's railed quite frequently against his predecessor President George W. Bush's faulty economic policies. However, when it comes to comprehensive immigration reform, it seems as if President Bush was more of a progressive on this issue that is so cherished by a portion of the Latino community. As the economy seems to be emerging from the rubble, comprehensive immigration reform has indeed taken a step backward in the contemporary political narrative.

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