Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Rights groups reject ICE changes to immigration enforcement program


The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) [advocacy website] and a coalition of other rights groups Friday rejected [press release] the changes announced by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) [official website] to the criticized Secure Communities Program [materials], a federal enforcement program that partners local law enforcement with federal immigration authorities.

The groups claim Secure Communities undermines public safety, invites racial profiling and pulls non-citizens into what they call a "dangerous" system of detention and deportation. ICE announced changes [WSJ report] Friday to its program that requires local law enforcement to turn over fingerprints to federal immigration officials after booking arrested individuals to check for immigration violations.

The changes include the creation of an Advisory Committee and Minor Traffic Offenses to provide recommendations on how to focus on those illegal immigrants who pose a legitimate threat to public safety. ICE also issued a memorandum [text, PDF] promoting prosecutorial discretion by looking at considerations such as the individual's length of time in the US, whether they are pursuing an education and their prior immigration history. The rights groups said they commend ICE for trying to make changes in response to an outcry against the program but called the changes merely "cosmetic."

Earlier this year, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACH) [official website] released a report [JURIST report] arguing that US immigration enforcement agencies are overly reliant on a flawed detention system. The IACH investigated six immigrant detention centers based throughout Arizona and Texas. The report expressed concern over increased use of detention by the US government, citing a doubling in detention of non-citizens by ICE. It criticized the US government for viewing detention as a necessity and not as an exception in its enforcement.

Absent comprehensive reform at the federal level, illegal immigration continues to be a concern for local governments as well. There are currently federal court challenges over preemption of state immigration bills passed by Arizona and Georgia [JURIST reports].

Earlier this month, the Oklahoma Supreme Court [official website] upheld an immigration law [JURIST report] authorizing law enforcement to use concurrent authority with the federal government to control illegal immigration, preventing illegal immigrants from receiving drivers' licenses or state-issued ID cards, making illegal immigrants ineligible for state assistance, and requiring employers to check the immigration status of its employees.

Last month, the US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] ruled in Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting [Cornell LII backgrounder] to uphold an Arizona immigration [JURIST report] law that imposes penalties on businesses that hire illegal immigrants.

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