Why the S-Comm “Fixes” Fall Short

Posted on June 24, 2011

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A coalition of immigrant advocacy groups has a brief analysis of why S-Comm’s “fixes” don’t solve the problems of local law enforcement being virtually locked into the “voluntary” program, or that it effectively functions as a shadow deportation program.

Summary of why the tweaks fall short:

1. ICE’s adjustments come in response to growing opposition from states and localities, but fail to address their desire to not participate and the fundamental problems associated with SComm—including how collaborations between police and ICE funnel people into an unjust detention and deportation system.

2. ICE did not set any restrictions on who they could deport—ICE has always had the power to exercise prosecutorial discretion but has rarely done so.

3. S-Comm still undermines community policing, and the adjustments do not address the burden that the program places on already-stretched police departments.

4. ICE did not explicitly accept the decisions of counties across the country and three states who have refused to participate because of the serious problems with the program. Nor did ICE explain whether jurisdictions that were previously activated into the program can exit. Prosecutorial Discretion Memos*: The main “reforms” are new memos from ICE Director John Morton: One purports to guide ICE personnel regarding whom they should prosecute; the other purports to address the reluctance of immigrant crime victims and witnesses to cooperate with police investigations out of fear of deportation. Both memos largely restate existing ICE policy on prosecutorial discretion.

The “Exercising Prosecutorial Discretion” memo does not prevent ICE from using S-Comm to deport any individual who is subject to deportation, including undocumented immigrants, permanent residents, and visa holders.

For over a year, Director Morton has been instructing ICE to focus on serious offenders— yet S-Comm has continued to operate as a deportation dragnet.ICE statistics show most of the people arrested and deported through S-Comm have minor or no convictions.

The “Certain Victims” memo states that ICE will offer special treatment for crime victims and witnesses. Yet ICE fails to acknowledge the complex dynamics of domestic violence and human trafficking, and all too often police do not recognize arrestees as victims. For example, police often arrest both parties to a domestic dispute and sort out the true perpetrator later. Because of S-Comm, “later” is too late: their fingerprints will already be sent to ICE.

This memo provides no process for making sure ICE knows whether someone is a crime victim or witnessor for informing such persons that being a victim or witness will make a difference. Too often people are pressured into signing away their rights to an immigration hearing and never have the chance to point out that they are victims or witnesses.

Advisory Committee: ICE is creating an Advisory Committee to monitor S-Comm and make recommendations on how to “mitigate potential impacts on community policing practices.” It will purportedly work on limiting deportations of people who charged with but not convicted of “minor traffic offenses. The Committee is tasked with producing a report within 45 days.

ICE is essentially hand-picking individuals who will be monitoring and proposing fixes while duplicating—and possibly undercutting—the Inspector General’s upcoming investigation of S-Comm.

That ICE now claims it will review deportations of “traffic offenders” for a program purportedly focused on public safety shows that S-Comm functions primarily as a mass deportation program bent on meeting record-breaking quotas.

There’s more at Uncovering the Truth, the website of a coalition of immigration advocates, including a more detailed analysis in PDF.

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