AFSC, its partners and other advocates commend Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick for refusing to sign a state-wide agreement with the federal government to participate in a flawed, anti-immigrant federal program that has been denounced by the immigrant rights movement and resisted strongly by governors, state and local elected officials and law-enforcement representatives nationwide.
Under the Secure Communities program, the fingerprints of every person booked by the police are checked against Department of Homeland Security (DHS) databases. That is in addition to routine checks against the F.B.I.’s criminal databases. The governors of New York and Illinois have pulled their states’ participation after signing memoranda of agreement with DHS. The California assembly also joined the ranks of those rejecting Secure Communities by approving legislation that will allow the Golden State to opt out of the program.
In a June 7, 2011, letter to the Department of Homeland Security, Gov. Patrick wrote he is “dubious about taking on the federal role of immigration enforcement… and even more skeptical of the potential impact Secure Communities could have,” including racial profiling, reluctance to report criminal activity, and further deterioration of relationships between communities and police.
Citing statistics from the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement office, Massachusetts Public Safety Secretary Mary Beth Heffernan said the numbers show that only about one in four of those deported since the start of Boston’s pilot participation in the program were convicted of a serious crime.
“Gov. Patrick’s decision is a positive step forward, one that highlights the federal government’s poorly conceived, enforcement-only immigration policies. Secure Communities encourages racial profiling and erodes trust between police and community members,” says Gabriel Camacho, who directs AFSC’s Project Voice program in New England. “We will continue to deplore fundamentally flawed programs such as S Comm, and to work for humane immigration reform.”
AFSC played a significant role supporting the Just Communities campaign, led by Centro Presente, against Secure Communities in Massachusetts. AFSC staff both in New England and around the country helped guide immigrant advocates with strategy sessions, written materials, press conferences, vigils and many mobilizations.
For more on AFSC’s blueprint for immigration reform, review the New Path document.