Mala’s Note: Originally I was going to write this as one post but as I have been reading the report and analyzing, it really is too long for one post. So I am going to break up my analysis into two (or three) parts.
Yesterday, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network and a National Community Advisory Commission made public a report condemning the Secure Communities deportation program and recommending its termination. The report, titled “RESTORING COMMUNITY: A National Community Advisory Report on ICE’s Failed “Secure Communities” Program,” makes excellent recommendations even if none of them are really new. However, the context – that is the analysis as to why those recommendations should happen are far from change making and in fact do a grave injustice to where the immigrant rights movement and police accountability movement intersect.
Let’s focus on the positive : In Part I – the Introduction and Recommendations, the report makes clear that there is no fixing S-Comm. It needs to be stopped along with other programs that merge immigration with policing. The complete recommendations are:
1. The Secure Communities program should be ended.
2. The current Department of Homeland Security Office of
Inspector General audit of Secure Communities should
be completed and the Department of Justice Office of
Inspector General should begin an investigation into the
FBI’s role in Secure Communities.
3. Criticism of Secure Communities should be applied to
inform changes to other ICE ACCESS programs, and the
entanglement of local criminal law enforcement and
federal civil immigration functions should be stopped and
4. States and localities should not be compelled to
participate in immigration enforcement programs,
including the forwarding of fingerprints and other
biometric information to the Department of Homeland
Part II : Problems with Police – ICE Entanglement, is where the report started to raise first my eyebrows then my temper. Instead of centering immigrants, the report chooses to centers police and policing. Relying primarily on the “expertise” of law enforcement officials from across the country, the primary problem with S-Comm is it’s interference with public safety within immigrant communities. Having lived in immigrant communities for most of my life, I can tell you that there is no better expert on the safety of our communities than law enforcement.
That was sarcasm.
It’s interesting that the report chooses from jump to allow safety to be defined by police, who historically have been charged with keeping immigrant communities in our place – in other words keeping others safe from us. The report seems to function on the assumption that there is in place a good, working relationship based on trust between immigrant communities and law enforcement.
Ron Hampton, the President Black Law Enforcement in America, and someone who was very involved in the massive national anti-police brutality struggles of the 1990′s, is quoted as saying:
“Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) ‘Secure Communities’
program is incompatible with community policing.”
What the quote and the rest of this portion of the report fail to acknowledge is that the concept of “community policing” has been co-opted by police forces across the country into a meaningless public relations/marketing label. The report goes as far as to claim that community policing is to be credited to the massive drop in crime over the last decade. Hmm and here I thought it was stepped up surveillance, stop and frisks based on racial profiling and the use of the broken windows theory. “Community Policing” as it is used now relies on the “good vs. bad” citizen narrative – relying on your neighbors to rat other neighbors out – rather than the community determining what safety means for them and how to work towards that. S-Comm uses the same deceptive narrative, with the White House saying that it is program targeting the “bad” or “criminal” immigrants – so that the “good” ones don’t need to concern themselves. For example, Michael Hennessey, Sheriff of San Francisco is quoted as saying that the issue with S-Comm is that it casts too wide a net. With a certain amount of pride, Sheriff Hennessey says that he reports felons to ICE all the time.
You cannot effectively fight a program by adopting it’s language. I think that quote about the the ineffectiveness of using the master’s tools to dismantle the master’s house would be appropriate here.
Another “expert” on police – community relations is former Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton. Bratton was also the head of the NYPD and for those interested on how well Bratton engaged with community here I would urge people to look up the cases of Yong Xin Huang, Anibal Carasquillo, Anthony Rosario, and Frankie Arzuaga.
The often cited problem with S-Comm has the face of an immigrant woman, a survivor of domestic violence who cannot trust the criminal justice system anymore now that it is linked with the immigration enforcement system. In this second part of the report, Robert Morgenthau, New York County District Attorney, 1975-2009 cites this very problem in his critique of S-Comm.
A spouse, for example, may be reluctant to report abuse if she fears
that the consequences will be deportation of the father of her children.
And there have been cases when the women reporting the violence have been placed in deportation proceedings. But the cry against S-Comm using the “Won’t you think of the abused women?” cry is misleading and assumes that law enforcement has and always has had the best interest of women of color struggling against violence in mind. I would urge people to read some of the work of INCITE!(PDF) on the issue, which takes the words and lives of women, transgender and gender non-conforming people of color and centers them when it comes to working against violence. Police intervention in domestic violence situations for our communities has not meant safety.
A young African American transgender woman living in Los Angeles reports that she called the police for help on many occasions because her boyfriend was abusive,
but they never investigated or took any action. However, one morning, following her most recent call, two undercover officers knocked on her door and arrested her, pursuant to an old warrant for solicitation.
A twenty-year study of 48 cities found that greater access to criminal legal remedies for survivors of domestic violence led to fewer men being killed by their wives, as women who might otherwise have killed to escape violence were offered alternatives. However women receiving legal support were no less likely to be killed by their intimate partners, and were exposed to additional retaliatory violence.
In all fairness, towards the end of this second section of the report, a transition starts to happen that FINALLY begins to center those most impacted by S-Comm. From the first voice not in law enforcement highlighted, the Rights Working Group, a national coalition of civil liberties, national security, immigrant rights and human rights organizations committed to restoring due process, we read about how Secure Communities seems to be using racial profiling in some areas:
ICE’s data, released through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request by the Center for Constitutional Rights, the National Day Labor Organizing Network, and the Cardozo Immigration Justice Clinic reveal that some jurisdictions have abnormally high rates of non-criminal deportations under Secure Communities. For example, in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana 71% of Secure Communities deportations were noncriminals, and in New Orleans Parish 63% were noncriminals. This is particularly disturbing given that the New Orleans Police Department is under investigation by the Department of Justice for a pattern or practice of discriminatory policing.
It’s somewhat of a shame that the report starts by laying groundwork based in a false notion of good community = police relations in immigrant communities and that it takes so long to get the point that begins to look at the criminal justice system – on both the federal and local level as part of the problem. For me it really highlighted how much work there is still yet to do within so called advocate communities who are well funded and perhaps well intentioned but end up using the same lens we are struggling against. You can’t be against the polimigra when you are relying on the poli’s arguments.
The next parts of the report are more promising in terms of how they look at the history of anti-immigrant laws in the U.S., the relationship between prisons and the current immigration system and feature testimonios from those most directly impacted by Secure Communities.
I will go in depth into these parts in my next post but in the meantime let us have the same courage to challenge ourselves the way we claim to challenge the Obama administration, Congress, and others.