House Republicans blast Obama deportation policy


Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee decried during a Nov. 30 hearing Obama administration policy that focuses deportations caused by information collected through the Secure Communities program on criminal and dangerous illegal aliens.

A June 17 memo (.pdf) signed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton instructs personnel to take into account factors such as educational attainment, criminal history, age and circumstances of arrival in the United States when deciding to proceed with the removal of an illegal alien. Secure Communities is a federal information-sharing effort under which fingerprint data taken by local law enforcement and sent to the FBI is also cross-checked by ICE with immigration databases. As of Nov. 29, it is active in 1,766 jurisdictions in 44 states and territories--56 percent of 3,181 jurisdictions that will be a part of Secure Communities by 2013, according (.pdf) to ICE.  

Prosecutorial discretion and other steps the administration has taken "are part of the administration's unrelenting effort to grant amnesty to illegal immigrants," charged Rep. Elton Gallegy (R-Calif.), who chaired a hearing of the House Judiciary subcommittee on immigration policy and enforcement.

The full committee chairman, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said administration policy "could potentially allow millions of illegal and criminal immigrants to avoid deportation and work in the U.S., taking jobs away from Americans."

Critics of Secure Communities say the program undermines law enforcement at the local ability since it creates a deterrent for illegals to contact law enforcement even when the victim of a crime.

"Whenever you start impacting the trust between the law enforcement agency and the communities they serve at the start impacting good policing for the entire community," said Arturo Venegas, a former Sacramento, Calif. police chief and current head of the Law Enforcement Engagement Initiative.

Venegas was one of five members of a Homeland Security Department-empaneled task force on Secure Communities who withdrew from it in September out of protest that its recommendations do not go far enough in correcting an unintended negative impact of the program on local law enforcement. "Many people with minor infractions, such as driving without a license, will still be put into deportation proceedings," he said at the time.

Opponents also say that Secure Communities has led to racial profiling. "If an officer chooses to issue tickets to white drivers without their license, but arrest Latinos in the same situation, S-Comm would not be race-neutral," said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, the subcommittee ranking member. A study by the University of California-Berkeley's Warren Institute found that between 2008 and January 2010, 93 percent of those identified through Secure Communities were Latino, Lofgren added.

"Ninety three percent is a staggering statistic, because Latinos do not make up 93 percent of the removable immigrants in this country," she added.

During the hearing, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) appeared dismissive of the profiling issue. "Is there a federal statute that prohibits racial profiling?" he asked.

For more:
- go to the hearing webpage (prepared testimonies and webcast available)

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