L.A. Wants Out of ‘Secure Communities’
By Richie Duchon, City News Service
The City Council voted Tuesday to support state legislation that would allow the city to opt out of the federal government’s “Secure Communities” program that requires police to submit fingerprints of arrested people to federal immigration officials.
The program was created in 2008 and calls for police to submit suspects’ fingerprints to Immigration and Customs Enforcement so they can be cross-checked with federal deportation orders.
City Councilman Bernard Parks, a former Los Angeles police chief who introduced the motion supporting the state legislation, said the program was intended to target undocumented immigrants convicted of violent crimes but has gone far astray from its original purpose.
A report by the city’s chief legislative analyst found that nearly 70 percent of people deported under Secure Communities had no convictions or were accused of minor offenses.
Washington, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C., have refused to sign agreements with the Department of Homeland Security to participate in the program. The governors of New York and Illinois have also recently withdrawn their states from the program.
Legislation for California to withdraw has passed the state Assembly and is awaiting a vote in the Senate.
“One of the most significant issues of Secure Communities is that it impedes victims (from) making crime reports,” Parks said. “That is a 40-year journey in the city of Los Angeles for the LAPD … finding ways through language skills and also breaking down barriers to allow victims to come in, unimpeded to report crimes.”
Anti-immigration activists will accuse Los Angeles of being a “sanctuary city” and harboring criminals, Parks said, but “the large issue for me is that this is a home-rule issue. The city of Los Angeles should set policies as it regards how they conduct business with the community in which they serve.”
Councilwoman Jan Perry, who co-sponsored the motion, said Secure Communities threatens victims of domestic violence.
“A woman or mother may be afraid of coming forward and speaking about criminal activity in her neighborhood for fear of getting deported or separated from her children, who could be left in an abusive situation,” Perry said.
LAPD Assistant Chief Michel Moore said the city’s Special Order 40, which prevents police officers from considering immigration status when initiating a police action, has made the city safer since it was established in 1979 under then-Police Chief Daryl Gates.
Moore said other police agencies around the country have abused Secure Communities to target all illegal immigrants.
“The perception alone undermines our ability to maintain and build upon trust with these (immigrant) communities, trust that’s vital to our ability to maintain the safety for those communities and all Angelenos,” he said.
Labor and immigration-rights activists applauded the city’s move.
“The tide is turning on the dangerous, dishonest Secure Communities program,” Pablo Alvarado, director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, said. “It’s snake oil. It makes communities less safe. It imperils civil rights and it is poisoning political efforts to reform unjust immigration laws.”
Councilman Greig Smith was the only vote against the resolution.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca last month made his support of Secure Communities public.
“Arresting officials are not deputized to enforce immigration laws. They are simply doing what they have always done. The only difference is that under Secure Communities, the fingerprints they take during the booking process are run through FBI and Department of Homeland Security databases,” Baca said and listed examples.
Immigrant rights activists have denounced Baca’s support of the program saying that the program was not needed to apprehend the criminals in the examples he gave.Print This Post
June 9, 2011 Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.