Opposition grows against Secure Communities immigration program

by Gloria Pazmiño and Debralee Santos

Struggle lays ahead for New York State’s immigrant community. That was the consensus during a discussion about the controversial federal program known as Secure Communities during an immigration forum held by the Barack Obama Democratic Club (BODC) in Northern Manhattan on Wed., Nov. 18.

Secure Communities is under fire for requiring local governments and police to share information with the federal government and Homeland Security. The information swap enables the agency to target undocumented immigrants or resident immigrants who are not yet citizens, and make them deportable for committing minor offenses. It comes on the heels of legislation passed during the Clinton administration that increased the types of criminal offenses which immigrants can be deported for, no longer restricting the offenses to just violent crimes.

“Washington Heights, with its large Dominican population, acutely feels the impact of deportation as more than 50,000 Dominicans have been deported from the U.S. since the passage of the harsh 1996 immigration laws,” said Mizue Aizeki, a community organizer for the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights with offices in Northern Manhattan and the Bronx.

ESCONDIDO: Rights group decries deportation of family

By Edward Sifuentes

The deportation of a 9-year-old girl, her mother and her grandmother after a minor traffic violation earlier this month has sparked criticism from immigrant rights groups, who say that law enforcement officers should not enforce immigration laws, particularly as a result of minor violations.

Minerva Santos was driving her 9-year-old daughter, Nadia, to the doctor on a recent Friday morning, when she was stopped by a San Diego County sheriff’s deputy in Escondido for making an illegal turn. Less than one hour later, Santos, her daughter and her mother were turned over to U.S. Border Patrol agents and were deported.

“What the officers in this case are doing is making subjective determinations of what the right thing to do is, and they are wrong, not just on legal grounds but wrong from the perspective of needing to protect all the residents of the area,” said Victor Torres, spokesman for El Grupo, an umbrella organization for civil and human rights groups.

“No one will want to report crimes, criminals will go unprosecuted, and that bodes ill for all the residents,” Torres said.