The Side Effects of Fast-Tracking Deportations

Yesterday, the Department of Homeland Security released its deportation statistics for fiscal year 2011, disclosing 396,906 removals of unauthorized immigrants—the most ever. Today, a University of California-Berkeley study claims that Secure Communities, the much-maligned fingerprint-sharing program that links local jails to the DHS database and funnels even more people into deportation proceedings, has helped create a system “in which individuals are pushed through rapidly, without appropriate checks or opportunities to challenge their detention and/or deportation.”

The report, based on federal government data and produced by the UC-Berkeley School of Law’s Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy, points to a number of problems related to the poor management of Secure Communities (a.k.a. S-Comm), including:

  • S-Comm has led to the apprehension of some 3,600 US citizens due to problems with the DHS database (though none were later booked into Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention)
  • 93 percent of S-Comm arrests have been of Latinos, who make up roughly 75 percent of the country’s undocumented population
  • 52 percent of people arrested through S-Comm receive a hearing before an immigration judge
  • 24 percent of those arrested through S-Comm that had a hearing also had an attorney present
  • 39 percent of people arrested through S-Comm report that their spouse or child is an American citizen
  • 83 percent of people arrested though S-Comm end up in federal immigration detention; in comparison, 62 percent of those arrested by ICE are detained

“Based on our findings, we recommend that the Department of Homeland Security suspend the program until the government addresses the issues we identify, particularly wrongful US citizen arrests, potential racial profiling, and lack of discretion in detention,” said Aarti Kohli, the Warren Institute’s director of immigration policy, in a statement.

But Secure Communities doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. With Republican candidates arguing about border fences and undocumented gardeners—and with one of President Obama’s top immigration advisers, Cecilia Muñoz, telling PBS’ Frontline, “As long as Congress gives us the money to deport 400,000 people a year, that’s what the administration is going to do”—it seems unlikely that the administration will pull back from its support of the program anytime soon.

Check out the full report, “Secure Communities by the Numbers”:



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