AUSTIN – A coalition of Travis County civil and human rights groups today cited a new national report and local stories as further reasons to call for an end to the troubled “Secure Communities” immigration enforcement program.
The report, issued by the National Day Labor Organizing Network and other organizations, recommends terminating the Secure Communities program and respecting local agencies decisions if they choose to opt-out of Secure Communities. It is available online at http://altopolimigra.com/s-comm-shadow-report/
The coalition also cited local examples of how Secure Communities affects Travis County residents. On November 6, 2009, Raul Zamora, a 21 year old Urban Studies Major at the University of Texas in Austin was arrested after being stopped by the University of Texas Police Department for a broken taillight. Despite calling Texas home since he was 10 years old, Raul was transferred to ICE, and was put in deportation proceedings. Now, Raul must fight to stay in this country to finish his degree and to contribute to the country that he calls home.
Raul’s story is all too common. The controversial federal immigration screening program, Secure Communities, has caused numerous deportations of individuals who have never been found guilty of any crime or were simply arrested for violation of traffic laws. In Travis County alone, the program has resulted in nearly 1,900 deportations since its inception in 2008, the vast majority for minor infractions. Secure Communities connects local law enforcement with federal agencies such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) allowing ICE to screen individuals booked into local jails. “This collaboration results in deportations of people like Raul and fundamentally makes our communities less safe by driving a wedge of fear between community members and local police,” said Matt Simpson, Policy Strategist for the ACLU of Texas. Simpson added, “Community members who believe local law enforcement are working with ICE are less likely to contact police when they are the victims or the witnesses of a crime.”
In Travis County, a coalition with many prominent organizations continues to call for the federal government to:
Terminate Secure Communities. Alternatively, the federal government should suspend the program pending the completion of the Inspector General audits currently being undertaken by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice.
Review the impact of all Immigration and Customs Enforcement immigration screening programs (such as the Criminal Alien Program and 287g agreements) on community policing, public safety, and the civil rights of all residents of Texas.
Recommend that Federal entities respect the requests of local and state jurisdictions seeking to opt-out of Secure Communities.
The coalition includes: The ACLU of Texas; American Gateways; Austin Center for Peace & Justice; Austin Tan Cerca de la Frontera; Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition; Detention Watch Network; Equal Justice Center; Grassroots Leadership; LULAC District 12; PODER; Texans United for Families; Workers Defense Project; Texas Civil Rights Project; Texas Criminal Justice Coalition; Texas Jail Project; and University Leadership Initiative.
- Kirsten Bokenkamp, ACLU of Texas (713) 942-8146 x 109 or (832) 691-7013; email@example.com