The Secure Communities program is supposed to catch and deport undocumented immigrants convicted of serious crimes. It’s a program that we could support if only it accomplished its intended goal, which it doesn’t.
So amid mounting evidence that the program does more harm than good, Gov. Cuomo decided to reevaluate the value of the program for his state. Via the press release from Governor Cuomo's office:
"There are concerns about the implementation of the program as well as its impact on families, immigrant communities and law enforcement in New York," Governor Cuomo said. "As a result, New York is suspending its participation in the program."
In a letter to DHS, Governor Cuomo's administration stated that information produced thus far has called into question – at both the federal and state levels – the implementation and intended effect of the Secure Communities program.
Governor Cuomo's office has also received complaints stating that the goals of the program were not being met. The questions raised are further aggravated by inconsistent statements by DHS and a failure to disclose basic information about the program.The decision by the Governor received support from a strong contigent of law enforcement professionals from across New York, including the New York State Police Benevolent Association, the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police and the New York State Sheriffs Association.
You can read a copy of the letter from Counsel to the Governor, Mylan Denerstein, to the Department of Homeland Security here.
It’s clear that the Secure Communities program is unpopular, harmful, and ineffective. According to Salt Lake City Police Chief, Chris Burbank:
The Secure Communities program combined with misguided state legislation has promoted a shift in local law enforcement's mission across the country and driven a wedge between the police and public. The resulting priority adjustment places emphasis upon civil immigration action over community policing and all criminal enforcement. The conceit of the program is its intention to target serious criminal offenders. Unfortunately, community members and traffic violators are often more significantly impacted than violent offenders. We in law enforcement must safeguard community trust. Without the support and participation of the neighborhoods in which we serve, we cannot provide adequate public safety and maintain the well-being of our nation. As Governor Cuomo appropriately asserts, the Secure Communities program has not had its intended effect and we have experienced more negative than positive.So far, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn (D), has decided to pull out of the program, and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) has called for an investigation into questionable ICE practices regarding the program. (Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) publicly supported her.) Then, last month, law enforcement leaders and elected officials held a telephonic press conference sharing their concerns about Secure Communities. Even the Sheriff of San Francisco, Michael Hennessey, was moved enough to write an article in the Huffington Post speaking out against it.
Last week’s blow came when California Assembly Member Tom Ammiano introduced the TRUST Act – legislation that would allow counties in California to opt out of the program. According to DHS, counties in California would have to adhere to California’s Secure Communities agreement whether they want to or not. The TRUST Act passed the California Assembly by a 43-22 vote, and the bill now heads to the California Senate.
The pressure is clearly on DHS to either fix the program -- or scrap it altogether