Thursday, December 23, 2010

Governor Patrick Should Reconsider Secure Communities Initiative


Massachusetts Green-Rainbow Party

Contacts:Michael Horan, Co-Chair, 617-515-2139 or Jill Stein, Co-Chair, 781-674-1377

December 21, 2010

BOSTON - Labeling the Deval Patrick administration's decision to sign on to the "Secure Communities Act" as a mistake, the Green-Rainbow Party declared its unequivocal support for efforts by the immigrant group Centro Presente  to halt harsh police enforcement against "undocumented" immigrants.

Noting that criticism of the Secure Communities Act has come from The New York Times,  the Congressional General Accounting Office, law enforcement officials, and city councils across the country, the Green-Rainbow Party called upon Governor Patrick to reconsider his commitment to the federal mandate.

According to the Green-Rainbow leaders, the measure has flagrantly missed its stated priority of targeting violent criminals, resulting instead in the harassment, detention, and deportation of many non-criminals.

It has also stripped local law enforcement agencies of their right to adopt more flexible ways of dealing with immigrant issues within their own jurisdiction.

According to Green-Rainbow Party co-chair Michael Horan, "The Secure Communities initiative was created to ensure that dangerous (`Level 1') criminals would face additional scrutiny by ICE, resulting in their possible deportation. In practice, however, more than half of those deported following ICE investigations in Boston have turned out be non-criminals.

One credible report notes that `traffic violators and day laborers' have become the central target of this operation.
The system is not only misleading and unjust, but creates a barrier between local police and the very people they are entrusted to serve and protect.

Safe, strong, and secure communities do not arise from policies that sow fear and distrust."

The initiative, which turns over the fingerprints of everyone arrested and booked, was rolled out in October 2008 under the auspices of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which expects it to be fully implemented nationwide by 2013.

In providing no clear-cut means for communities to opt-out, ICE prevents local law enforcement from using their experience to handle local issues, which explains why towns like San Francisco, The District of Columbia, and Virginia's Fairfax County have petitioned the Justice Department to allow them to withdraw.

Until this week, civil rights advocates had hopes that the Patrick administration might join them.

The Governor was non-committal during the campaign, declaring that the program hadn't been in effect long enough to warrant his support, and as recently as a month ago stated that "The concern over illegal immigration has become so shrill that all immigrants get swept up in that emotion.

I want you to know that you are welcome here in this commonwealth."

Horan noted that "in bowing to anti-immigrant political pressure, Governor Patrick is endorsing the type of ill-conceived programs that he claimed to oppose.

His real message seems to be: You actually aren't all that welcome after all."

Jill Stein, GRP co-chair and 2010 gubernatorial candidate, deplored the gap between Governor Patrick's words and his actions as Governor. "When seeking votes from the immigrant community Governor Patrick repeatedly portrayed himself as their friend, and implied that he would protect them from harsher anti-immigrant actions. 
But this action speaks much louder than his words. It has come as a shock to those who took his pronouncements at face value."

Claribel Santiago, a member of the Green-Rainbow Greater Boston Chapter, called Governor Patrick's about-face "another sad example of the Democratic Party establishment's willingness to bow to oppressive forces rather than stand up for people."

"Here in Boston, the political leadership has displayed a callous indifference to the real reasons behind the street crime that plagues our neighborhoods.
To pretend that rounding up and deporting immigrant traffic offenders will help to make our streets safer is a cruel joke.  It's just another excuse for not providing what we really need for security communities-safe housing, strong schools, and the opportunity for good jobs.  It amounts to a betrayal of those whom the Governor promised to serve."

Centre Presente is coordinating an action against the Secure Communities program tomorrow, Wednesday, December 22, at 11:00 AM, in front of the State House.

The Green-Rainbow Party is one of the co-sponsors of this event, and has called upon Party members to lend their support by turning out.


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