AILA Urges Timeout on the Secure Communities Program

May 3, 2011
George Tzamaras or Jenny Levy

Washington, DC - Today as the House Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security convenes for its hearing today on "Border Security and Enforcement - Department of Homeland Security's Cooperation with State and Local Law Enforcement Stakeholders," the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) calls for the suspension of the flawed enforcement program Secure Communities.

The hearing presents an opportunity for Congress to gather information about the adverse impact Secure Communities is having on communities nationwide, most notably the way it undermines the effectiveness of local law enforcement and community policing. "Secure Communities" makes it harder for police to protect our communities. Trust is an important part of law enforcement. But Secure Communities makes our communities less secure and less safe because it drives fear into immigrant communities that the police are people they cannot trust," said David Leopold, AILA President. "AILA strongly supports smart and effective law enforcement, but this is not the way to make America safer."

In recent weeks, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has acknowledged flaws in the program, including the likely deportation of victims of domestic violence and other crime victims. Last week, Representative Zoe Lofgren of California called publicly for an independent investigation of DHS for allegedly misleading the public and local government officials about how Secure Communities would function. City councils and municipal leadership have balked at the coercive way that DHS has rolled out the program, citing concerns about local autonomy, the lack of transparency, and frequently shifting positions of DHS officials.

"Secure Communities was not ready three years ago and is still not ready now," said Leopold. "Serious questions remain about the supervision and oversight of this program that has already been implemented in 1250 jurisdictions and will be in every town and every city by 2013. The federal government cannot rollout a program as powerful as this until it has been carefully tested. That's why the program needs a timeout until DHS puts adequate checks and safeguards in place."

"Secure Communities suffers from the same problems as its precursor, the 287(g) Program, which was severely criticized for fostering civil rights and other abuses by local law enforcement agencies," said Leopold. "The Office of Inspector General did not one but two reports concluding that 287(g) was poorly run and lacked adequate due process, monitoring and other protections. Why should Americans trust that Secure Communities, a close cousin of 287(g) but with a catchier name, will be any better run or any safer, especially when members of Congress are saying they were lied to?"

Although Secure Communities has been billed as a way to identify serious criminals who pose a threat to our communities, 60 percent of those deported under the program have never been convicted of a serious crime or any crime. "That's thousands of people that we are dragging to court and expending finite enforcement resources on. AILA supports the stated goal of targeted enforcement, but this is neither targeted nor smart enforcement. It's more like a dragnet," said Leopold, "The Obama Administration needs to do a full-scale examination of this program before moving forward. Small fixes and policy tweaks are not enough. The Secure Communities program needs a fundamental overhaul."


The American Immigration Lawyers Association is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members.

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 11050364.