DHS revises Secure Communities to enable illegal immigration (John Morton, ACLU, CHIRLA, NDLON, NIF, AILA, NYT, Ammiano)


The campaign by illegal immigration supporters against the Department of Homeland Security's immigration enforcement program "Secure Communities" has at least partly succeeded as ICE chief John Morton announced changes to that program. Those changes will reinforce the message that the Obama administration has been sending for years: illegal aliens who don't commit major crimes get to stay (see Obama immigration, Janet Napolitano, and the preceding links). Several far-left illegal immigration supporters still aren't satisfied; see their reactions below.

First, the details on the changes from [1]:

In a fix likely to have broad practical effect, Mr. Morton issued a memorandum that greatly expanded the factors immigration authorities can take into account in deciding to defer or cancel deportations. Agents are now formally urged to consider how long an illegal immigrant has been in the United States, or whether the immigrant was brought here illegally as a child and is studying in high school or college.

In practice, the memorandum gives immigration agents authority to postpone or cancel, on a case by case basis, deportations of illegal immigrant students who might have been eligible for legal status under a bill stalled in Congress that is known as the Dream Act.

The authorities are also instructed to give "particular care and consideration" to veterans and active duty members of the military, especially if they have been in combat, and to their close relatives.

...Mr. Morton also expanded the authority of federal lawyers who handle cases in immigration courts to dismiss deportation proceedings against immigrants without serious criminal records.

...Mr. Morton also said he would form an advisory commission of police chiefs, sheriffs, state and local prosecutors, immigration agents, and immigrant advocates. The first task of the commission would be to assess, within 45 days, another fix Mr. Morton is considering.

Currently all immigrants who are flagged in a Secure Communities fingerprint check can be detained for deportation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents from the time they are first booked into jail. Mr. Morton said that under his proposal, illegal immigrants who were arrested for minor traffic offenses, like driving without a license, and other minor misdemeanors, would not be detained for deportation until they were convicted of those crimes.

Mr. Morton also issued new guidelines he said would ensure that illegal immigrants detained by the police who were victims of domestic violence and witnesses to crimes would not be deported.

Note that illegal aliens can't serve in the U.S. military unless war has been declared, which it hasn't in any of our four current wars.

Based on past experience, the advisory commission will be full of illegal immigration supporters; the possibility of them even adding one person who supports immigration enforcement is low.

The reaction

As for the response from groups who worked against the program:

* The Asian Law Caucus, American Civil Liberties Union of California, CHIRLA, the California Immigrant Policy Center, and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) released a joint statement [2]:

"We are deeply disappointed by the inadequacy of the Administration’s response to the mounting body of evidence that the ‘Secure’ Communities program is damaging public safety and ensnaring community members. The painful stories of domestic violence victims and other innocent community members facing deportation thanks to S-Comm underscore that the program has simply gone off the rails. While today's announcement acknowledges that problems exist with the program, the measures outlined by the Administration are a far cry from workable solutions these problems. To announce “reform” before review is an exercise in politics, not policy. The administration should suspend the program and wait for the Inspector General report in order to develop fair and transparent policies... Before vital relationships between local law enforcement and immigrant communities are furthered damaged, before more domestic violence victims, street vendors, family members, and workers who are merely striving for the American dream are swept up for deportation, S-Comm must be reigned in... For the sake of public safety and transparency, we need real solutions. We strongly support California’s TRUST Act, which sets safeguards the federal government has failed to implement and allows local governments out of S-Comm, and we continue to call for a national moratorium on this fundamentally flawed program."

* The NYT editorial "Too Little, Too Late" (nytimes.com/2011/06/20/opinion/20mon3.html) ends with:

If Mr. Morton really wants advice from experts, he already has the testimony of police chiefs and sheriffs, leaders of immigrant communities and a growing number of state politicians. They say the best thing that can be done with Secure Communities is to shut it down.

* Outgoing American Immigration Lawyers Association president David Leopold says [1] "If these standards are applied consistently, it would allow ICE to focus government resources on dangerous criminals and national security risks to make America safer, a goal we all share".

* AILA executive director Crystal Williams says [3]: "There was enough said to make me think this may be more than window dressing... Everything remains to be seen, but the thinking is in the right direction."

* Andrea Black, Executive Director of Detention Watch Network says [3]: "These changes are nowhere near sufficient to address the well-documented problems with the Secure Communities program that has, thus far, torn apart countless families across the country by funneling people into a detention and deportation system rife with abuse... The flaws with Secure Communities run so deep that the only solution is termination of the program."

* The National Immigration Forum offers a press release entitled "Enforcement Changes Welcome, but Secure Communities Must Be Halted"

* San Francisco Police Commissioner Angela Chan (also a staff attorney at Asian Law Caucus), said the reason ICE and the FBI, "are so crazy for S-Comm is because it’s the first step in a much bigger loop that will include citizens and non-citizens alike." [2]

* California assemblyman Tom Ammiano (see the link) says [2]:

"Today’s announcement by ICE is simply window dressing. How many more innocent people have to be swept up by the ironically named Secure Communities program before the Obama administration will change course? Talking about the need for comprehensive immigration reform is not an excuse for continuing with a flawed, unjust program that is having tragic consequences for communities across the country. It is time for a moratorium on S-Comm pending a real review of the program not just PR spin from ICE."

* From [1]:

"This program is riddled with flaws and the announcement today acknowledges that,” said Chris Newman, general counsel of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. He said the program should be suspended until the Homeland Security inspector general completes a review later this year.

* B. Loewe of NDLON says [2]: "This feels like a non-announcement, and it’s far from reform... You don’t put a collar around a snake and call it a pet."

6/23/11 UPDATE: A copy of the memo is in this PDF: link (cached). It lists 19 factors to consider before taking action.

And, the ICE Agent's Union has issued a press release (link):

On June 11, 2010, ICE Union leaders around the nation issued a unanimous no confidence vote in ICE Director John Morton on behalf of ICE officers, agents and employees nationwide citing gross mismanagement within the Agency as well as efforts within ICE to create backdoor amnesty through agency policy. ICE Union leaders say that since the no confidence vote was released problems within the Agency have increased, citing the Director's latest Discretionary Memo as just one example.

"Any American concerned about immigration needs to brace themselves for what's coming," said Chris Crane, President of the National ICE Council which represents approximately 7,000 ICE agents, officers and employees, "this is just one of many new ICE policies in queue aimed at stopping the enforcement of U.S. immigration laws in the United States. Unable to pass its immigration agenda through legislation, the Administration is now implementing it through agency policy."

Crane emphasized that agents, officers, employees and the Union had no input in these policies, "ICE and the Administration have excluded our union and our agents from the entire process of developing policies, it was all kept secret from us, we found out from the newspapers. ICE worked hand-in-hand with immigrants rights groups, but excluded its own officers."

Agents say the policy is a "law enforcement nightmare" developed by the Administration to win votes at the expense of sound and responsible law enforcement policy. "The desires of foreign nationals illegally in the United States were the framework from which these policies were developed," Crane said, "the result is a means for every person here illegally to avoid arrest or detention, as officers we will never know who we can or cannot arrest."

The union says just as concerning is the way policies are implemented at ICE. Agents claim that under Director John Morton the agency always presents written policies for public consumption, but then makes "secret changes" to the policies which ICE refuses to put in writing. ICE knows the policy changes will create a political outcry, or could place the public or ICE officers at risk. "Our officers are already under orders not to make arrests or even talk to foreign nationals in most cases unless another agency has already arrested them; you won't find that written in any public ICE policy."

[1] "U.S. Pledges to Raise Deportation Threshold" by Julia Preston of the New York Times: nytimes.com/2011/06/18/us/18immig.html The article has the problems you'd expect, such as her referring to "the groundswell of local resistance" against Secure Communities, when very few people who aren't on the illegal immigration take in one way or another probably even know about the program. The opposition has come from the illegal immigration-supporting infrastructure, such as those quoted above.

[2] sfbg.com/politics/2011/06/17/

[3] gopusa.com/news/2011/06/20/ice-announces-changes-to-immigration-enforcement/