(An open letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano)
We, as members of the New York City Council, who represent immigrant communities throughout the city of New York, are deeply disappointed in your decision to deploy Secure Communities in New York City. Implementation of this flawed policy will have potentially devastating effects on New York City’s immigrant communities. You should not activate this program in New York.
Since its inception in 2008, the reach of Secure Communities has been overbroad. The stated goal of the program is to, “prioritize[s] the removal of criminal aliens, those who pose a threat to public safety, and repeat immigration violators.” Yet your own data shows that, in Fiscal Year (FY) 2011, 26 percent of all Secure Communities’ deportations were immigrants with Level 1 convictions; 19 percent of those deported had Level 2 convictions; and 29 percent were individuals convicted of Level 3 crimes (minor crimes carrying sentences of less than one year). Twenty-six percent of those deported had only immigration violations. This dragnet approach may lead to the deportation of New Yorkers charged with minor offenses who have lived in this country for more than 10 or 20 years, and who have deeply rooted family and community ties. This result is simply wrong.
As you know, in an effort to address the many concerns raised by those affected, the Homeland Security Advisory Council’s Task Force on Secure Communities issued a report containing findings and recommendations designed to improve the program in September of 2011. Advocates criticized your recent response to that report, which proposed to change little more than the way an individual accused of a traffic violation is treated, as falling far short of what is needed. We join in that criticism. For example, although the Task Force recommended that ICE improve the transparency of Secure Communities and strengthen accountability mechanisms, there continues to be limited oversight of the program and it remains far too difficult to make a complaint. In light of these facts, we cannot support the program or its activation in New York City unless and until the issues raised in the task force report are addressed.
Perhaps most importantly, it is clear to us that the decision to deploy this program here will create fear in immigrant communities and corrode the bond between immigrants and the New York Police Department. In New York City, we have worked tirelessly to ensure that immigrants feel comfortable accessing local government, in particular, local law enforcement, to report crimes, seek assistance, and support their communities. The deployment of Secure Communities will cause grave damage on all of these fronts.