The “Secure Communities” program of ICE is leading to the deportations of thousands
DAVID DOUGHERTY, TRNN: Demonstrators gathered in front of the White House on Tuesday, July 26, to demand justice and equality for America’s immigrant families. The event was organized by CASA de Maryland, a Latino and immigrant workers advocacy organization founded by Central American refugees in the 1980s. Protesters demanded a moratorium on the deportation of undocumented students and family members of US citizens, an end to immigration and customs enforcement programs 287G and Secure Communities, and the repudiation of mandatory e-verify legislation moving through Congress which would require employers to cross-check employees’ information with federal immigration records to see if they are legally authorized to work in the United States. Several demonstrators were arrested during the rally in an act of civil disobedience, including US Congressman Luis Gutierrez. Representative Gutierrez, considered a leading political voice in the push for comprehensive immigration reform, stressed the urgency and importance of changing what he says is a flawed and inhumane immigration policy.
REP. LUIS GUTIERREZ (IL-4): Children are arriving home from school to find their parents missing [incompr.] ICE [incompr.] abundant in our community with no legal recourse. When those kinds of things are happening, it’s time for a change, and we’re here to demand that change. And change takes courage, and we demand the president of the United States show that courage to bring that change about.
DOUGHERTY: The mobilization came a day after President Barack Obama addressed immigration reform during the annual conference of the National Council of La Raza, which is one of the largest Latino civil rights organizations in the United States. Obama has drawn harsh criticism from immigration advocates over the record number of deportations under his administration, which has now exceeded 1 million. During his speech, Obama shifted much of the blame on Republicans in Congress and stressed that while he supports immigration reform, he does not have the power to act alone.
BARACK OBAMA, US PRESIDENT: I share your concerns, and I understand them, and I promise you we are responding to your concerns and working every day to make sure we are enforcing flawed laws in the most humane and best possible way. Now, I know some people want me to bypass Congress and change the laws on my own. Believe me–. And–. And believe me, right now, dealing with Congress, the idea–.
CROWD: Yes, you can! Yes, you can!
DOUGHERTY: Many immigration reform advocates contend that Obama has more power to legally act on issues regarding deportations than he has stated. Obama’s speech before the NCLR conference comes as his reelection campaign is heating up, and was seen as part of an attempt at mending relations with the strategically important Latino voting bloc feeling betrayed by unfulfilled campaign promises regarding immigration reform. At the demonstration, many immigrants and allies share concerns over some of the dangerous implications of expanding ICE initiatives like Secure Communities, which is a national deportation program requiring local law enforcement officials to partner with immigration authorities in enforcing federal immigration laws.
MARIA BOLANOS, IMMIGRANT WORKER (SUB-TITLED TRANSLATION): President Obama promised to give amnesty to the immigrants, but now, since he has taken office, there have been many deportation orders, many Latinos who have had to leave the country and return to their countries of origin, leaving their families behind and their children abandoned. I am one of those people. The father of my daughter was deported, and now I have a deportation order. I never know what will happen tomorrow. We ask Obama for all of this with Secure Communities to stop.
DOUGHERTY: Maria Bolanos is an immigrant from El Salvador who lives in Prince George’s County, Maryland, which has the second-highest rate in the country of noncriminal deportations through Secure Communities. Her experience with law enforcement and the program highlights some of the fears and pressures felt by undocumented immigrants living in Secure Communities jurisdictions.
BOLANOS: I called the police because of an argument I had with my partner. When the police came, I thought they were going to help me, but instead they turned me over to the immigration authorities. I was detained for five days. I thought I wasn’t going to be able to see my daughter again. Instead of calling it Secure Communities, they should call it Insecure Communities, because one does not feel safe, you don’t have any security with the authorities. There are many Latinos who are not going to call the police, because there are so many people being taken in for small and insignificant things by the police before being handed over to immigration and deported.
DOUGHERTY: Local law enforcement officials enforcing immigration laws under the Secure Communities program is scheduled to expand to every jurisdiction in the country by 2013, in spite of vocal opposition from both immigration advocates and a number of local law enforcement agencies concerned about the impacts of such policies on policing efforts in immigrant communities. It is unlikely that any comprehensive immigration reform will be passed before the upcoming 2012 elections, as Obama and Congress members focus on campaigning efforts. In the meantime, the national debate over immigration rages on, as the future of working immigrants and families lies in the balance. This is David Dougherty with The Real News Network.
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