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Immigration Customs Enforcement’s Secure Communities machine

When the City of Danbury signed a Memorandum of Understanding with (ICE), there was a collective gasp all across the immigrant community that was not only understandable but wholly justified. Lurking in the wings, however, was another threat to the immigrant community that crept across the country like a quiet storm in the night that erupted in the early morning. That storm was Project Secure Communities.

During the first turn of the Obama Administration, approximately one million immigrants were removed from the United States. The removal of so many people came as a shock, as the presumption would be that an Obama White House would be more sympathetic and willing to work with immigrant communities across the country. One of the reasons removals increased was the expansion of Secure Communities, from 14 jurisdictions in 2008 to over 3,000 jurisdictions today.

Project Secure Communities is a data-sharing program between the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigations. The process of Secure Communities is somewhat straightforward and removes the personal discretion from the equation until it comes time to process removal proceedings.

The Connecticut criminal justice system is now covered by Secure Communities and the effects of its implementation can be felt far and wide across the State. Secure Communities is a program put in place to obey a 2002 Congressional mandate to ensure that the FBI and the DHS were sharing information to combat terrorism. The FBI fingerprint database was shared with the DHS so that anyone arrested in a Secure Communities jurisdiction would have his or her fingerprints sent to the FBI, who would then forward the data to the DHS to determine if removal proceedings were appropriate. The process would result in the issuance of a 48-hour Immigration Detainer, which would keep a suspected undocumented immigrant incarcerated for up to 48 hours while ICE determined whether or not the detainee was in the United States illegally.

Project Secure Communities was intended to target convicted criminals or people accused of serious crimes, but the mechanical procedure of Secure Communities cast a wide net that caught anyone who was fingerprinted and processed in a cooperating jurisdiction.

The federal government was concerned about locating undocumented immigrants who were engaged in criminal activities involving violence or drugs. What ended up happening was much like dolphins being caught in tuna nets.

A massive sweep would gather up people who were arrested for motor vehicle violations or minor crimes and these people would be detained and held in a federal detention facility where they were put through the removal process. The removal process is a violent one that affects families. Approximately 5,100 children who are citizens now reside in foster care in 22 different states because their parents were undocumented, detained and removed.

The current trends and policies among federal agencies are shifting towards a more inclusive and understanding position, but nevertheless the immigrant community still has much to fear from ICE and law enforcement in general.

In a memo dated July 17, 2011, Director of ICE John Morton spoke to the use of

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