(In)Secure Communities

Howard Woolf

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Interview Participants
In an ever-changing world, America's security is our number one priority. ICE is the largest investigative arm of t he Department of Homeland Security.
Let him take it. Let him take it.
Our mission is to protect national security. And uphold public safety by targeting the people, money, and materials of terrorists and criminal organizations that threaten national security.
John Morton: If you come to this country lawfully to seek a better life for you and your family, we welcome you. If you come to this country illegally, and you turn to a life of crime, we don't. In fact, we will arrest you, we will prosecute you, and we will remove you.
It, it's not the problem about with illegal immi, immigrants, it's the illegal immigrant system.
If this thing turns into a dragnet, when you're booking people in, if not, you've violated the law. You shouldn't be a part of it. It's a whole other thing.
It is not really targeting the individuals that it purports to target.
They're gonna take jobs, they're gonna take housing, they're gonna take resources.
If it succeeds, it has a great impact on our communities. If it doesn't, it can have very painful impacts on our communities.
Been working on the minimum wage. If it was fucking up to me, I'd slash their fucking throats.
I believe the system does not view immigrants as people. If anything, immigrants are viewed as an issue, including myself.
Laura Gonzalez: Secure Communities was a program that was actually implemented through Homeland Security. And this program was through Immigrations Customs Enforcement, so ICE as we know them. And it was a program that was piloted ba ck in 2006, and basically the point of it was to capture “illegal” immigrants, or deemed illegal immigrants as, as peo ple call them, who have criminal records. So basically, capture them, take them, send them to deportation centers, and then ship them back to their countries.
John Morton: What we do is we add an automation to that process that allows the counties to submit the fingerprints in a cooperative effort between ICE and the FBI, to the federal data, databases to see one, do you have a criminal record, and two, are you in the country unlawfully, or are you subject to removal? For the first time in our nation's history we are going to be able to tell law enforcement officials who arrest som ebody for a crime, who they have on their hands and whether or not they're removable at the moment of arrest.
Laura Gonzalez: The city that they chose to pilot the program, and the city that decided to do this was Boston, our very own Boston. There are other cities around the United States that just flat out said no, that they weren't gonna, that they weren't gonna do it.
I think its a good policy actually. I being from Omaha we, we do have a lot of problems with immigrants causing or, or, committing violent crimes. I think it's a good idea. I think the key word in all of this is illegal immigrants.
If the policy is to just round them up and just keep them there for no apparent reason, then I don't agree with that. But they have to be building this country up. If they're here, they gotta be here for a reason. And if they're here for a reason, it should be they're coming and working.
Well, I think that if a person commits a violent crime in this country, regardless of their ethnicity, then they sh ould be they, they should be arrested and they should be prosecuted and hopefully convicted if they, in fact, committed a violent crime.
My name is Maria. I came to the United States, to this area, in 1996. I was still a teenager. I started working two weeks after, at a factory. It was interesting ‘cause it was 12 hours. So as my uncle used to say, I used to go into t he factory all straight looking, like an 18 years old's supposed to look, right? And come back on Sundays after three days of work looking like this. Like all of a sudden I had turned 80. It was a really tough job. I did that for, I wan t to say like, three almost four years. Then I had my daughter Jasmine. After having my daughter Jasmine, I decided to switch my job and later on get an education.
Westy Egmont: America has 34 million foreign-born people. They make up such an incredible part of our workforce and our future. We're a nation of 80 million people who have come as immigrants and their descendants.
Paula Aymer: Since the passing of the 1965 Immigration Act which came soon after the 1964 Civil Rights Act, for the first time in the country's history, it allowed immigrants from countries south of the Equator to come in in larger numbers than they'd ever done. During the civil wars in, in Central America, in Nicaragua and El Salvador, you had the movement. And people fleeing those wars would go through the mountainous region in Central America, arrive in Mexico and then come across the country.
Paula Aymer: If they could get to Massachusetts, Somerville, and Cambridge, together with the Central Americans you've had movin g into Massachusetts. Lots of people from Brazil, from the Dominican Republic From the anglophone Caribbean, and from the rimlands of South America. So Colombians and Guyanese, Venezuelans to a lesser extent, moving into, to the area.
I met Danny a lit a little over two years ago. We started a committed relationship. And he had a very rough early adulthood. He was, he was arrested several times for different charges. He was never, he was never convicted. So Immigration said to him, in order for us to reinstate your green card, you need to take care of this because this is in your record, you need to go back to the court, reopen those cases, and work it out. So he did that, he went back to the court. The the cases were dismissed.
Rep. Kyrsten Sinema: Well I think the concept of the Secure Communities made a lot of sense. The idea that we would have federal agents interdicting individuals who are accused of committing violent crimes. It really is about making our community more safe. Unfortunately, the implementation of Secure Communities has not really worked out in that fas hion. And what we see is that more than half of the individuals who were actually detained and then removed from the country, under the Secure Communities programs, are individuals who have no criminal activity or record at all. These are people who are moms and dads, folks who mow lawns, take care of kids, and are just doing their best to live the American dream.
Cynthis Buiza: We call it a benignly deceptive program because of the name, right? It's really, and it has, is part of its selling power to law enforcement institutions is its, its attraction for, for catching so-called or quote unquote criminals.
Paula Aymer: The process of identifying the the threat is part of the problem, because there is a danger of sweeping in people who might be a threat or might not be a threat. Might not be a threat at all to the whole society, might be a threat to themselves. It's like save us from those people.
Last March, my brother's back home in the Dominican Republic. And I said, you know what? I wanna see my brother. I mean, I haven't seem him for awhile and I miss him. And he said, I wanna come with you. He hasn't seen his father for 14 years.
After, I don't know, after a couple of hours of questioning back and forth she said okay, I'm gonna have you fill out this paperwork. I'm gonna stay with your green card and then you're gonna receive a court date for you to go in front of an immigration judge, because although those cases were clean in a criminal system, you have not seen an immigra tion judge. And he say okay. He started completing the paperwork. He comes back and she said oh, you know what? I can't do that, I need to detain you. I talked to my boss and he said that I should detain you. They arrested him that night on three charges. What should have happened, if anything, was for them to keep his paperwork and re, send him home, and then send him an appointment to see a judge. But it happened. I mean, he had proof that the cases were vacated or dismissed.
Sarang Sekhavat: While it's touted as a criminal law enforcement program, it's actually not structured in that mann er. So what happens is you have people who have no criminal record who might wind up being deported because of Secure Communities. It's, it takes resources away from criminal law enforcement. It scares families, it scares communities. People are really afraid of going to the police to report crime, and they're victims because there's a lot of fear that because of Secure Communities there's some that are gonna find themselves deported now.
Laura Gonzalez: Before, you would be able to get a ticket. Now what's happening is that you're being arrested, you' re being fingerprinted, you're spending time in jail. And then after you pay whatever the fine is, ICE is waiting for you right outside and you basically start this whole system of, of getting deported.
Sarang Sekhavat: So the reason why everyone should be concerned about Secure Communities is that it applies to everybody. It applies to me, who, I am a native born citizen of the US, just as equal as it applies to someone who maybe just got off the plane today. You see a lot of racial profiling where you have a, an officer who might say, well, this person's brown, I'm gonna arrest him. All of a sudden, they're being run through a database for no good reason. And they're gonna be held in detention for no good reason. And those are the concerns.
I know that even the slightest crime, even running a red light, can be cause for them to be deported. I don't think that's right.
They're coming uneducated and they're running from a system that their ancestors got stuck in, or were tortured in, or are, or are not willing to stay in. So take a chance and go to another country, like say America, looking for freedom.
We, we lump immigrant groups together. And while there might be a very small percentage of those people who, who are criminals it's guilt by association and, and that's prejudicial.
Westy Egmont: The question we have in Arizona, as well as in the streets of Boston, is how to separate out a criminal element. From the general populace, and we don't take every black person or every Jewish person or every Muslim per son or every foreign born person and group them together and make generalizations.We have to find ways to go after criminal elements as criminals. We have to make sure that we are not using this as a way in which we take away our civil liberties, or a way in which we create a society that's prejudicial in it's policies. It's very easy for us to slip down a very slippery slope and find ourselves part of, a culture that is denying the civil liberties that have made America great.
Paula Aymer: One has to ask, is this a way of dealing with immigration issues? Is this is a way of dealing with our demographic changes? Is this a way of dealing with our racial fears?
And, I tried to keep as strong as I could. It was really difficult. I lost weight. I was losing my hair. I w as in a point in my life when I was like in solving mode. I just wanted to get the issue fixed. At one point like ever ything hit me, and I realized that God this is happening. This is really happening. Like our life has just been torn a part for something that happened so long ago. It should not be happening in the first place. But that's how I saw working.
The reason why immigrants need to be viewed as people. And it's because we have families, and if you destroy family, you destroy society. Again, we talk about human rights. How do you explain someone like my daughter, my niece , my nephew, that his mom or dad is taken away? We need to do something about it. There must be a better way of doing things than destroying families from left to right.