Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Article: Immigration Detention in America: Civil Offense, Criminal Detention

By Luz C. González Fernández, J.D., Bridge Legal Fellow, ACLU of Northern California for the Harvard Journal of Hispanic Policy
Latinos voted for Barack Obama in throngs in 2008. The landslide turnout of Latino voters was due in large part to the promise of comprehensive immigration reform. I was among those Latinos. Many of us knew that change would not come easily, but we did not expect the plight of immigrants to actually worsen—as it has under the radical expansion of the federal program Secure Communities.

According to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE), Secure Communities utilizes a “biometric information sharing capability to . . . identify aliens in . . . custody” (ICE 2013). In essence, Secure Communities enables local law enforcement agents to help ICE facilitate deportations by identifying persons who have committed crimes, regardless of gravity, as well as by providing records of persons who have been stopped, fingerprinted, and found not to have committed any criminal offense.

Secure Communities’ form and function have radically changed under the Obama Administration. In 2008, when the program began, Secure Communities was implemented in 14 U.S. jurisdictions; today, implementation stands at 97 percent. By the end of 2013, Secure Communities is expected to be mandatory and active in 100 percent of U.S. jurisdictions (Ibid.; Ramlogan 2010).


Since President Obama came to office in 2008, deportation numbers in the United States have reached historic highs, rising to nearly 400,000 in fiscal year 2011 (ICE 2012). During President Obama’s first term in office, approximately 1.5 million people were deported (Ibid.), prompting many to refer to President Obama as “Deporter-in-Chief” (Llenas 2012).




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