ICE’s “Secure Communities” and American spouses

Click to read AILA Report

The American Immigration Lawyers Association has just released a report that documents 127 cases of immigrants who were taken into Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody after minor interactions with local law enforcement officials. This often happens through the Department of Homeland Security’s “Secure Communities” program, which has come under intense scrutiny in recent weeks. Secure Communities provides immigration authorities with fingerprints from local jails, but DHS has several other means of scanning arrestees for immigration violations including 287g, which deputizes some local police and sheriffs to enforce immigration laws and the Criminal Alien Program, which screens inmates in select jails and prisons for immigration violations.

Perhaps most chilling, however, as documented in the AILA report, is the tendency of local law enforcement, including U.S. Forest Service rangers in one example, to call in ICE after routine traffic stops and hand the case over to them.

The opposition to Secure Communities and to the large numbers of deportations under the Obama administration that the program has facilitated, is still being led by fearless undocumented youth, as evidenced by demonstrations in Chicago and Los Angeles (see YouTube video below). But as the numbers of U.S. citizens or permanent residents with close relatives and friends caught up in this federal dragnet increase, a new opportunity for protest is on the rise.

Of the 127 cases the AILA report documents, at least 27 of the immigrants in deportation proceedings have U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouses or fiances. Four are dating American citizens. And even more have U.S. citizen children, siblings and parents. Imagine for a moment that you are driving with your husband in Florida, you get a ticket and when you go to court to challenge it, your husband is arrested by ICE agents and placed in deportation proceedings:

In 2010, a man in Florida was a passenger in a car driven by his wife, a U.S. citizen, when the car was pulled over. The wife was given a ticket for driving without a license. The wife went to traffic court to challenge the ticket because she had a valid driver’s license. The man accompanied her to court. Even though the wife was a U.S. citizen, she was not fluent in English because she had spent many years outside the U.S. However, plainclothes ICE agents were at the courthouse arresting people who needed an interpreter, and they arrested both the man and his wife. He has been placed in removal proceedings and has no relief other than voluntary departure. He was the sole source of support for his wife and two U.S. citizen children. He also helped support his wife’s U.S. citizen sister and her two children. —AILA Case Study #26

These cases are occurring all over the country at all times of day and night. Even Good Samaritans and VICTIMS of crimes are being caught in the dragnet:

In September 2007, a man called the police after being the victim of a hit and run car accident in New Mexico. The sheriff’s deputy who responded to the call repeatedly asked the man if he was “illegal.” When he finally admitted to being in the country unlawfully, deputy arrested him. He was held until ICE picked him up and was eventually deported to Mexico. His lawful permanent resident wife and their U.S. citizen child moved to Mexico as well. —AILA Case Study #83

I cannot see how President Obama, a student of the 1960s Civil Rights struggle can watch this type of injustice occur, much less sit idly by as “citizens”—and I use that term in the broadest way possible, as in good citizens—take to the streets over it.

Leave a Reply