Last week a number of immigration advocacy organizations in Washington D.C. filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security seeking information regarding their Criminal Alien Program (CAP).
According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the CAP program provides ICE-wide direction and support in the identification and arrest of those immigrants who are incarcerated within federal, state and local prisons and jails, as well as at-large immigrants with criminal records. This is done through ICE presence in jails and prisons and initiating deportation proceedings against people convicted of criminal offenses. It’s important to note that CAP does not just look at undocumented immigrants but also green-card holders, short-term temporary workers and visitors with proper authorization,
The lawsuit filed by the American Immigration Council (AIC) and the Connecticut chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) alleges that ICE also sweeps up individuals who have been arrested but never convicted of any crime, a violation of due process.
Specifically the two organizations are seeking responsive, non-exempt records regarding CAP under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
While the federal government continues to expand another deportation program, Secure Communities, over the past five years alone, CAP has led to the arrest of more than a million people, and the program was implicated in approximately half of all removal proceedings in FY 2009.
From a press release announcing the lawsuit:
“Although CAP supposedly targets the worst criminal offenders, the limited information we have shows that this is not always the case,” according to Melissa Crow, Director of AIC’s Legal Action Center. “Like Secure Communities, this insidious program seems to target individuals with little or no criminal history for deportation and to incentivize pretextual stops and racial profiling.”
ICE claims that the CAP program saves money and resources but from fiscal years 2005 to 2009 the largest as well as the fastest growing segment of appropriated dollars went to ICE’s Detention and Removal Operations (DRO) office whose budget more than doubled (increasing 104%). While ICE has stated that the focus of the program is high risk violent offenders it wouldn’t be surprising to learn that this investment in criminalizing immigrant communities has increased under Obama as deportation numbers have increased across the board.