Problems with Implementing DHS’s “Secure Communities”

March 27th, 2011 · 11 Comments

This post about Secure Communities is somewhat timely for me.

A few weeks ago, I was driving through the city of Ontario, California and was stopped in a police dragnet that did not seem to be a “sobriety checkpoint”. Prior to reaching the dragnet, I did see people on the street with signs that spelled, “Reten” warning people about the police roadblock ahead. When I reached the police stop, I was asked for my driver’s license, which I provided to the officer, and then he let me go through. I also asked the officer if this stop was part of the Secure Communities program, and he said that he did not know if it was but that the City was getting money from the federal government to do it. To my immediate right, there was a group of about a dozen people and their cars pulled off to the side who were visibly upset. I’m going to assume that these people did not have licenses and/or any other documentation to produce and were likely headed to immigration detention.

In nearby Pomona, California, these sort of stops have been happening regularly, and community activists have been speaking out and organizing people who try to warn people with the “Reten” signs. Some people feel that these stops are excessive and unjust because the police departments get to impound cars and make money off of the impound fees. Additionally, tow yards earn money for holding the vehicles that are impounded. Here is a video explaining what is happening in this locality:

Pomona Habla-Speaking Out Against Oppression from Becca Russell-Einhorn on Vimeo.

In Chicago and Cook County, the Department of Homeland Security has been having difficulties enforcing this Secure Communities program. The program was intended to capture undocumented immigrants with criminal records, but that isn’t the case. The New York Times reports the following:

“Chicago and Cook County were among several localities nationwide that refused to enroll in the program, which involves sharing fingerprints of anyone arrested with the Department of Homeland Security. Chicago and Cook County cited so-called sanctuary ordinances that prohibit local officials from involvement in immigration enforcement.

The Secure Communities program is in effect in more than 1,000 jurisdictions in 40 states, including Illinois. The federal agency plans to take it nationwide by 2013 and says it does not need local approval to do so.

E-mails and other documents — obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, an immigrant-rights group — show that immigration officials saw Chicago and Cook County among the cities to be test cases for whether localities are allowed to opt out of the program.

Secure Communities is meant to find and deport illegal immigrants found guilty of serious crimes. But the immigration agency’s statistics through February 2011 show that 32 percent of immigrants put into deportation proceedings in Illinois had no criminal convictions. Nationwide, 28 percent had no criminal record.

“The original concept was to get the really bad people out of the country, but are those the only ones you’re getting?” Mr. Dart said. “I could never get a straight answer. If it’s getting murderers and rapists, we’re all for that, but if you’re talking about people pulled over because their license plate isn’t up to date — my staff kept coming back to me saying we never got clarification.””

The problem is that Secure Communities in many ways makes people feel less secure and fearful of the police or even inconvenienced for having to stop and produce a license for doing absolutely nothing but following the law. The program also contributes to the breaking up of families when undocumented people are stopped, detained and deported but leave behind citizen children and other dependents.

Tags: Department of Homeland Security · Government Accountability · Immigration

11 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Anna // Mar 27, 2011 at 9:04 pm

    Secure Communities is about making money for for corporate owned prisons. Those private detention centers get federal money for each person they house, and the government uses a private company now to transport people when they deport them. The government has no interest in closing the border and reducing the number of people crossing, or in legalizing the immigrants who are already here. They just represent more money for the private prison industry.

    Seriously, this has got to stop. People need to put pressure on the Mexican government to create jobs.

  • 2 Chicano future tense // Mar 27, 2011 at 10:28 pm

    LPG.. thank you so much for your important article!
    I think LPG has seen the future…and it’s not very pleasant..

    You’re doing a great job in bringing out so many crucial yet not-so-well publicized stories which greatly impact the Immigrant-Mexicano community.
    Your story here should serve notice to all those Latinos in denial-doubters,sceptics and naysayers, that it’s no longer a question of “can it happen here?” but rather a statement of “it is happening here” today.
    That’s how “creeping” fascism and tyranny begins- ..with things such as sector road blocks,”retens”,asking for “papers”,documents (asking for drivers license for no legitimate reason other than skin color or racial appearance),proof of immigration status.. etc etc .. the list of harassment goes on and on..

    And,as to “sobriety checkpoints” which we see in many of our barrios main thoroughfares.Recently a UC research team published a report which reveals that these checkpoints in reality have served as a fraudulent pretexts in order to raise funds for depleted local police and city coffers through impounding vehicles ,imposing hefty traffic fines.Their main objective is to get as much money as they can especially from Mexicans in the barrios where they cash in making millions in impounding vehicles,charging exorbitant fees and penalties.This is where they make their big bucks,not with grabbing drunk drivers-that doesn’t pay nearly as much.
    As a matter of fact according to this same study,at many checkpoints drunk drivers were actually let go and allowed to pass checkpoints!
    What the cops are really looking for are not drunk drivers but rather lucrative vehicle confiscations,towing and yard fee scams, no drivers license,no insurance tickets and penalties.. why?
    Not out of any sincere public safety concerns but rather
    because this is where most of the the money is to be made.
    Local cops and city officials are conspiring to rip off the Raza big time with their thieving conniving tricks and schemes to get easy money.
    We should ask ourselves here a question..Who really are the criminals here??

    The Mexicano community did a fantastic thing responding by posting “reten” placards to warn others of “retens”,road blocks and checkpoints in the community.That is how it’s done..the Mexican people organizing to resist and refuse repression.Mexican people are masters of improvising!

    The Raza needs to do more of this and raise their level of organization and unity to all levels of response to ICE and cooperating Police departments and other city,county,state and federal governmental entities.Mexicans need to apply maximum leverage at all levels…political pressure-rewarding and punishing friends and foes.Protest in all it’s many forms,education,publicizing what’s going on..
    And it would even be a thousand times more effective if Latinos could do all these things in a more organized,coordinated,unified manner which would involve as many people in the community as possible-“the more the merrier” as they say..
    What is most important is not what goes on in DC or Sacramento or any other state capitol.What is most important is what goes on in your own town,city,county.
    Ultimately it will be the GrassRoots who will be the agents for the greatest change.Not the politicians.

  • 3 Anna // Mar 28, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    Re: “Local cops and city officials are conspiring to rip off the Raza big time”

    They’re ripping off illegal immigrants, which will continue to happen because legally they have no recourse. They send billions back to Mexico. Why doesn’t that give them some clout there? They should use their power to press for jobs in Mexico so that they don’t have to come here illegally and be exploited.

  • 4 James // Mar 28, 2011 at 6:36 pm

    I do not want to read about anyone’s loved one , that were killed by a unlicensed illegal immigrant . Didn’t we just have a non criminal illegal immigrant that was afforded bail , went back to his house cooked up some methamphetamine , the house caught fire and killed two little children. Is that what YOU what to give SANCTUARY to. Stop enabling this mass migration. Stop the insanity. Stop the reckless behavior of a segment of illegal immigrants that have no investment in America

  • 5 webmaster // Mar 28, 2011 at 9:32 pm


    I don’t think that anyone wants to give sanctuary to an immigrant who kills or commits other felonies. Most immigrants are not killers or meth cookers, etc. What many would like to see is some sort of background check and orderly process for people who aren’t dangerous to enter and then leave the country without having to worry about family members being deported or their vehicles being impounded, etc.

  • 6 acohen // Mar 31, 2011 at 11:24 pm

    Whereas the law requires drivers to be licensed, and whereas gov’t has the obligation to keep us safe from drunk drivers, then how can that be done if the police were to ignore the fact that the driver is unlicensed?

    The pro-illegals say they’re going to “hold the police department accountable.” However, I’m sure the anti-drunk driving groups say the same thing. So who’s right?

    It’s distressing to see that people are intentionally warning drunk drivers away from the checkpoints. How are those pro-illegals going to feel if one of those drunk drivers kills someone? Are the pro-illegals saying that law-abiding citizens should sacrifice their lives?

  • 7 Hispanic Caucus Takes a Stand // May 8, 2011 at 6:32 pm

    […] week the Congressional Hispanic Caucus called for the end of the Secure Communities program. I had blogged about Secure Communities and the annoyance of having to go through a checkpoint back in March. But there seems to be some […]

  • 8 Illinois State DREAM Act Passes Today in Bipartisan Vote // May 30, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    […] Governor Quinn notified the federal government that his state will no longer participate in the controversial Secure Communities program (note: California is also poised to challenge Secure Communities with the recent passage of […]

  • 9 Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca Defends Secure Communities Program // Jun 2, 2011 at 11:37 pm

    […] states like Illinois and this week New York take steps to stop the implementation of the controversial DHS Secure Communities Program, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca defends the […]

  • 10 Activists Take Aim at Obama Administration’s Secure Communities Program // Aug 17, 2011 at 10:08 am

    […] activists who are taking their protests and frustrations over the administration’s Secure Communities program directly to Obama campaign offices and Democratic Party headquarters around the […]

  • 11 Protest Actions Continue Even After Obama Administration Announces New Deportation Priorities // Aug 26, 2011 at 6:39 pm

    […] opportunities, especially as the President starts to publicly campaign. I suspect that if the implementation of Secure Communities continues as it has in the past that there will be even more actions. Undocumented activists are […]

Leave a Comment