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Friday Night Ice

Posted by Carol Rose, On Liberty  April 30, 2012 12:01 PM

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ACLU of Massachusetts Staff Attorney Laura Rótolo contributed the following:

It’s Friday afternoon. Time for another hollow announcement by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) purporting to fix its controversial “Secure Communities” program. These announcements—exquisitely timed to avoid media attention—have become such a pattern that advocates have come to expect “Friday surprises.”

This time, ICE announced its response to the criticisms of a task force comprising a diverse group of stakeholders hand-picked by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The task force criticized Secure Communities (S-Comm) for its inconsistent messaging, lack of transparency, and interference with community policing.

In response to this valid criticism, ICE does not propose to make any new changes to S-Comm going forward. Instead, ICE claims that it agrees with the recommendations and has already taken steps to improve the program. But these measures are purely cosmetic. They include adding information to the website, doing data analysis to find “outlier” localities that are engaging in racial profiling, and creating more training videos. No talk of actually limiting the program to serious offenders, as the program was supposed to do. No talk of allowing localities to opt out of this mandatory federal dragnet.

The task force report should have been a wake-up call for ICE. Instead, ICE hit the snooze button and continued to shut its eyes to the damage that S-Comm does to communities.
But this is nothing new. For years, immigrant communities have been telling ICE that this program will drive them further underground and scare them away from trusting their local police. ICE didn’t listen.

But this is nothing new. For years, immigrant communities have been telling ICE that this program will drive them further underground and scare them away from trusting their local police. ICE didn’t listen.

Law enforcement officials, themselves, then told ICE that the program interfered with their ability to police their communities. ICE didn’t listen.

States and cities tried to opt out, and ICE didn’t listen.

Our own Governor Patrick said, “no, thank you.” Boston Mayor Menino told ICE that the program must change substantially or be scrapped. ICE didn’t listen.

So ICE convened its own task force and asked for its feedback. When the task force essentially endorsed the criticisms that ICE had already heard, guess what ICE did? It didn’t listen.

No matter what valid concerns are raised, it is clear that the Obama administration will continue with this program. In fact, it is likely the reason that deportations are at an all-time high.

And if the recent Supreme Court argument on Arizona’s “show your papers” law is any indication, the Court will uphold Arizona’s right to make its own punitive immigration laws and will free other states to do the same. This will mean more anti-immigrant legislation, more racial profiling, and less trust of local police. It will mean, increasingly, the “Arizonification of America.”

These Friday afternoon announcements don’t fool anybody. ICE is not going to make any real changes to the program. The only way to fix S-Comm is to end it.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Carol Rose is executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts. A lawyer and journalist, Carol has spent her career working for and writing about human rights and civil liberties, both in the United States and abroad. More »

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