June 9, 2011
Andrew Cuomo’s Suspension Of Secure Communities Immigration Program
New York’s Governor, Andrew Cuomo is getting rave views for his decision to suspend the state’s partnership with the federal Secure Communities Immigration program.
And the kudos are coming from a wide range of elected officials at the federal state and local government levels, a host of immigration advocates, and a former Manhattan District attorney, Robert Morgenthau, not to mention ordinary people on the streets of the City, whether immigrants or native-born New Yorkers.
U.S. Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, Democrat of Brooklyn’s historic 11th Congressional District, who had earlier complained about the growing presence of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE, agents at Riker’s Island jail and about the policy of sending immigrants who were arrested but not convicted of any crime to federal detention centers in Louisiana and Texas, described Cuomo’s action as an “important step for justice and fairness.”
Like Clarke, Congresswoman Nydia Velasquez, who charged that the Secure Communities initiative started by the Bush Administration in 2008 and embraced by the Obama White House said that ICE’s “own statistics show” the program wasn’t working as it was “intended to do.” That was why she was backing Cuomo’s and applauding him for doing “the right thing.”
The Democratic leader in the New York State Senate, John Sampson of Brooklyn couldn’t agree more.
“I applaud Governor Cuomo for having the courage to take a new look at this controversial program and suspending New York State’s participation,” said Sampson, Democratic Conference leader in Albany. “While no one is suggesting that we do not enforce and uphold the rule of law, to implement a program that results in the detention and deportation of legal permanent residents and undocumented immigrants before they are even charged with a crime – much less convicted by a court of law – is clearly a serious miscarriage of justice.”
New York City Council member, Jumaane Williams shares that view.
“Secure Communities has done nothing to make our communities more secure,” he contended. “I applaud Governor Cuomo for taking an important first step through this suspension in ridding us of this ineffective and unjust program. I am confident that through his review, he will learn what I and my district, which is over 80 per cent immigrant families already, know: Secure Communities tears at the crucial relationship between the police and our communities and wastes law enforcement officer’s time and money. Once this program is firmly in our rear window, we can focus on real solutions to immigration reform that are effective and respectful of human decency.”
In announcing his suspension of the relationship, the Governor said that there were “concerns about the implementation of the program as well as its impact on families, immigrant communities and law enforcement in New York.”
He announced a review to determine whether the initiative was meeting its stated goal of deporting convicted felons. However, Cuomo said that “based on the evidence to date, it appears the program in New York is failing in this regard and is actually undermining law enforcement.”
Under the original program, states and local police department share fingerprints of immigrants. The trouble is that ICE often moves against the arrested immigrants before they have had their day in court, thus circumventing the constitutional protection of due process.
In a recent independent analysis of ICE figures, it became clear that more than 70 per cent of those persons arrested and fingerprinted by local and state police hadn’t committed any criminal offences.
Little wonder, then, that Morgenthau let it be known that he “strongly” supported Cuomo.
“I have long been concerned about the issues that arise when local police indiscriminately share information with federal immigration authorities,” said the former Manhattan DA. “Specifically, cooperation with federal immigration officials creates a lack of trust in law enforcement among the public. This makes it hard for police and prosecutors to do their jobs because immigrants become reluctant to report crimes and cooperate with investigations. That is why, during the 35 years I was District Attorney of Manhattan, my policy was to never share the names of individuals involved with the criminal justice system to immigration authorities until after they were convicted of serious crimes. Programs like Secure Communities, which require automatic database checks for people arrested by local police upon booking, magnify the problem I tried so hard to avoid.”
Here, then, is a sampling of the reactions to the Governor’s decision:
• Donna Lieberman, New York Civil Liberties Union executive Director: Instead of protecting us, Secure Communities has been used as a shortcut to deportation.”
• Ravi Ragbir of the New Sanctuary Coalition: Governor Cuomo has shown real moral authority by ending New York’s participation in Secure Communities.”
• Sunita Patel, Center for Constitutional Rights: “Given ICE’s own admissions about the way in which it has deceived states, including New York, about Secure Communities, there is simply no reason why any jurisdiction should participate.”
• Mizue Aizeki of the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigration Rights: “Secure Communities erodes trust with the police, encourages racial profiling, and funnels immigrants into an unjust deportation system.”
• Javier H. Valdes of Make the Road New York: “The program represents a dragnet approach to deportation that diminishes trust between immigrants and local law enforcement.”
• State Senator Eric Adams: “we should never have entered into the arrangement in the first place.”
• Republican Sheriff Mark Curran of Lake County in Illinois: “I hope that Governor Cuomo’s decision will encourage ICE to review this program’s accountability and truly make our entire community safe.”
• Scott Stringer: Manhattan Borough President: “Cuomo’s initiative is on the right side of history by rejecting overly broad enforcement policies that divide and discriminate against immigrants, undermine law enforcement and impose burdensome costs on our government.”
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