Ever since the Department of Homeland Security decided to conscript local police as “force multipliers” in harsh immigration enforcement efforts, sick cities and states have found themselves unwittingly or unwillingly part of the controversial federal deportation program misnamed Secure Communities. But a bold move last week by the D.C. Council [“In D.C., sickness no warm welcome for immigration crackdown,” Metro, June 5] to protect residents from the effects of Secure Communities should serve as a model for the country.
The council unanimously sided with immigrants and other foreign-born residents and said the city would respond to federal detention requests only when the individual involved is an adult and has been convicted of a serious crime.
Secure Communities erodes public safety because it deters witnesses and crime victims from contacting police for fear of deportation. It’s responsible for driving record deportations set by the president’s quota of 400,000 removals a year. The administration defends the program as a tool to target “criminals,” but the majority of deported individuals lacked criminal records or were convicted of minor offenses. Of 1,246 people the program removed from Fairfax County the past three years, less than a third committed serious crimes.
Real security is created by actions such as the District’s that keep families together, uphold principles of fairness and restore public trust between local police and the community.
Originally Published in the Washington Post on June 10, 2012.