Last week, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced a series of reforms to the Secure Communities program. Secure Communities is an information-sharing program by which the fingerprints of those arrested for criminal offenses are checked against immigration databases, and an immigration enforcement decision made for any who are removable. This program facilitates ICE’s ability to identify and remove aliens who pose a threat to public safety, and the new reforms build additional civil rights protections into existing program protocols. They include:
- Advisory Committee: ICE is creating a new Secure Communities advisory committee, bringing together law enforcement, immigration advocates, and others to advise the Director of ICE on ways to improve Secure Communities, including making recommendations with respect to the best treatment of those arrested for minor traffic misdemeanors.
- Prosecutorial Discretion: ICE Director Morton has issued a new memo providing guidance for ICE law enforcement personnel and attorneys regarding their authority to exercise discretion when appropriate – authority designed to help ICE better focus on meeting the priorities of both the agency and the Secure Communities program to use limited resources to target criminals and those who put public safety at risk.
- Protecting Victims & Witnesses of Crimes: At the direction of Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, ICE, in consultation with CRCL, has developed a new policy specifically to protect victims of domestic violence and other crimes and to ensure these crimes continue to be reported and prosecuted. This policy directs ICE officers to exercise appropriate discretion to ensure victims and witnesses to crimes are not penalized by removal. ICE is also working to develop additional tools that will help identify people who may be a victim, witness, or member of a vulnerable class so officers can exercise appropriate discretion.
- Training: ICE and CRCL have developed a new training program for state and local law enforcement agencies to provide more information for state and local law enforcement about how Secure Communities works and how it relates to laws governing civil rights. The first set of training materials can be accessed here.
- Detainer Policy: ICE has revised the detainer form ICE sends to local jurisdictions to emphasize the longstanding guidance that state and local authorities are not to detain an individual for more than 48 hours. The form also requires local law enforcement to provide arrestees with a copy (with relevant notices provided in multiple languages), which has a number to call if they believe their civil rights have been violated.
- Statistical Oversight: With the help of an expert statistician, ICE and CRCL have created an ongoing quarterly statistical review of the program to examine data for each jurisdiction where Secure Communities is activated to identify any indications of potentially improper use of the program. Statistical outliers in local jurisdictions will be subject to an in-depth analysis and DHS and ICE will take appropriate steps to resolve any civil rights issues.
- Civil rights complaints: ICE and CRCL have created a new complaint system whereby individuals or organizations who believe civil rights violations connected to Secure Communities have occurred can file a complaint. DHS and ICE take allegations of racial profiling and other complaints relating to civil rights and civil liberties violations very seriously. Formal allegations are referred to CRCL, which is tasked with guarding against violations in DHS programs (view the Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Complaint Form in English and Spanish and in seven other languages). Visit CRCL’s complaint intake website for more information about reporting allegations of racial profiling, due process violations, or other possible violations of civil rights or civil liberties related to Secure Communities.
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
Toll Free: 1-866-644-8360
Toll Free TTY: 1-866-644-8361