Washington, DC – Congressman José E. Serrano wrote yesterday to the Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement to register his objections to new policy changes that have been made to the flawed Secure Communities program. The changes made the program mandatory rather than based on cooperative agreements with states and localities—meaning that ICE has effectively chosen to ignore or disregard the legitimate concerns of those communities. Serrano has called for an end to the controversial program, which co-opts local law enforcement to help increase the number of deportations.
The full text of the letter Serrano sent is below:
Dear Director Morton,
I strongly disagree with the decision that ICE announced on August 5th to unilaterally proceed with the Secure Communities program and cancel all existing memoranda of understanding. I am concerned about why, so late in the game, “ICE has determined that an MOA is not required to activate or operate Secure Communities for any jurisdiction.” That this announcement follows the decisions of three Governors to withdraw from the program due to concerns for public safety is particularly unsettling.
The fact that three states, including my home state of New York, recently withdrew from the program should have been a signal that there are grave concerns about the program from those who implement it. I am troubled that instead of responding to these legitimate concerns, you are instead choosing to bypass the states and localities altogether. Far from addressing Secure Communities’ fundamental flaws, your August 5th letters to governors have only heightened suspicion, undermined trust, and created more confusion. Indeed, there is growing concern that your announcement may invite further legal challenges.
While I understand you may feel pressure to reach certain deportation goals, I urge you to reconsider recent policy choices and to think about the impact you are having on local communities. It is important that ICE recognizes the challenges our communities face and how these are complicated by the mistrust of law enforcement that ICE’s heavy-handed approach creates, particularly when local police are deemed frontline enforcers of broken immigration laws. We cannot jeopardize local law enforcement in the pursuit of ever larger numbers of deportations. While additional checks protecting witnesses and outlining prosecutorial discretion, if applied, might help provide relief in a few cases, it will not solve the problem. Trust in the police can only be restored if perceptions on the ground change considerably. To achieve this goal, you will need to invite—rather than reject— feedback from states and localities.
I strongly believe that the only way to move forward is for ICE to work closely with state and local governments, and community groups to understand the impact its policies are having at the local level. Since the Office of Inspector General is currently reviewing the program and since several states have recently notified you of their intention to opt-out, now would seem a good time to stop implementation of Secure Communities and reevaluate the impact it is having. In light of the many problems plaguing Secure Communities, I would encourage you to take this opportunity to stop further implementation of Secure Communities, wait for the IG report, and then work with states and localities to refocus the program in a way that meets their needs and addresses the concerns of the IG.
José E. Serrano
Member of Congress