Are American communities becoming more secure? : evaluating the secure communities program

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Villagrán, José Guadalupe

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This thesis examines the federal government’s progression in implementing the Secure Communities program. The Secure Communities program was initiated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2008 as a pilot program in only fourteen jurisdictions nation-wide. As of the writing of this thesis, four years following the initiation of the program, S-Comm. has been implemented in over 1700 jurisdictions nation-wide and it is set to be implemented in all local jurisdictions nationally by the end of 2013 (Immigration and Customs Enforcement, 2012). Although local law enforcement agencies had long shared the fingerprints of those they arrested with the FBI, the FBI now forwards this information to the DHS through S-Comm. who then checks the fingerprints against the Automated Biometric Identification System known as IDENT—a fingerprint database containing information on over 91 million individuals, including travelers, applicants for immigration benefits, and immigrants who have previously violated immigration laws. ICE then supposedly reviews their records to see if the person arrested is deportable. If they believe they are, or want to further interrogate them, ICE will issue a detainer. The detainer is a request to the local police to inform federal immigration authorities when the arrestee will be released from custody and to hold the individual for up to two days for transfer to ICE (The Chief Justice, 2011). This process is considered to be the most advanced form of file sharing between local authorities and federal immigration authorities yet. The focus of this endeavor is to evaluate whether this program has been effective in doing as its title maintains. If this program is one that the American people, documented or not, have to endure then it is important that we ask: has Secure Communities made American communities safer? Recent data collected on the program, reports of mass opposition to the initiative by local law enforcement officials throughout the country, and numerous personal accounts of discriminatory harassment of mostly Spanish-speaking Americans by federal immigration agents and state and local law enforcement officials participating in Secure Communities collectively demonstrate that this program has failed in making American communities more secure.



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