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CRCL Expands Community Engagement in 2011 (October 2011)

USA map highlighting Community Engagement

One of CRCL’s key roles is to engage with communities whose civil rights and civil liberties may be affected by Department activities. Through its engagement efforts, CRCL works to inform communities about Department policies and avenues of redress, while also relaying community concerns back to the Department.

CRCL accomplishes this work by hosting community engagement roundtables with diverse communities in multiple cities across the country. In 2011, CRCL expanded its reach by establishing new roundtables in eight cities: Atlanta, Denver, Houston, Minneapolis, Portland (Maine), Seattle, Tampa, and Washington, DC; this brings our total to 13 cities.

Community engagement roundtables give community leaders an opportunity to interface routinely and directly with DHS on the issues most important to them. Roundtables are held quarterly in each city, and usually hosted by federal agencies and community organizations on an alternating basis. Attendees can submit questions before-hand so that officials are prepared to respond, and the topics of discussion focus on concerns specific to each city’s participants. These open forums bring all the relevant DHS Components to the table; other federal agencies and leaders also regularly attend, including the local FBI Special Agent-in-Charge, Community Relations Service, and U.S. Attorney’s Offices.

Information gathered at roundtables can play a vital role in helping to inform policy decisions and improve the effectiveness of policies and programs. For example, discussion and feedback from recent roundtables have resulted in improvements to CRCL’s complaints process and in training improvements in several DHS components.

CRCL’s engagement activities are far from limited to the quarterly roundtables. For example, we often convene town hall meetings to address local issues and concerns; unlike roundtables, which are generally attended by community leaders, town halls are hosted by faith-based or community organizations and are then more widely open. In addition, we host "Incident Communication Coordination Team" calls, a conference call mechanism for rapid communication with national community leaders when some particular incident calls for speedy engagement of this type. These calls are used to inform leaders on the Department’s position and actions, and also to receive feedback regarding community concerns. Finally, we convene groups, both live and on the phone, to discuss particular issues as they arise - ranging from religious modesty concerns about TSA screening to immigration detention issues and Secure Communities.

CRCL also meets with immigration advocacy organizations to hear their concerns regarding the civil and human rights and civil liberties implications of Department immigration programs, policies, procedures, and operations. We also hosts a regular quarterly meeting with immigration advocacy organizations - the Civil Rights/Civil Liberties Committee - to discuss a variety of immigration matters including civil and human rights protections of immigrant detainees; verification databases and programs like E-Verify and Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE); and state and local enforcement programs, among many other topics. In fact, just this past year, CRCL convened the first West Coast meeting of the Civil Rights/Civil Liberties Committee in Los Angeles, CA, in order to hear the thoughts and concerns of West Coast-based organizations on issues at the nexus of civil rights, civil liberties, immigration, and homeland security.

To learn more about CRCL’s community engagement efforts, visit our website, or email communityengagement@dhs.gov.

By mail or phone:
The Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Building 410, Mail Stop #0190
Washington, D.C. 20528

Phone: 202-401-1474
Toll Free: 1-866-644-8360
TTY: 202-401-0470
Toll Free TTY: 1-866-644-8361
Fax: 202-401-4708

By e-mail:
crcl@dhs.gov

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