Photo by kbrookes/Flickr (Creative Commons)
A series of newly released emails between California and federal officials from last year adds more fuel to the debate over the arrests of non-criminal immigrants under Secure Communities. The federal immigration enforcement program allows the fingerprints of people booked by local police to be shared with immigration officials.
Since not long after its inception in 2008, Secure Communities has been under fire from immigrant advocates, state and local officials in several states, and some law enforcement. Critics complain that the program casts too wide of a net. While its stated goal is to arrest immigrants with serious criminal records for deportation, the program has landed many people who had no convictions or only minor ones in removal proceedings.
Immigrants fingerprinted following traffic stops are at issue in the emails, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by immigrant rights advocates and the immigration clinic of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at New York's Yeshiva University. The emails detail a back-and forth between federal and California Department of Justice officials, who ask if it's possible not to send data on non-criminals stopped at license checkpoints to Homeland Security.
One impressive thing about President Obama's recent pledge that he'd try to get comprehensive immigration reform passed in his second term if reelected, made during a televised interview with the Spanish-language Univision network, is the seemingly bipartisan nature of the unhappy reactions that skeptics have been posting online.
During a network interview Friday, Obama said: "I can promise that I will try to do it in the first year of my second term. I want to try this year. The challenge we’ve got on immigration reform is very simple. I’ve got a majority of Democrats who are prepared to vote for it, and I’ve got no Republicans who are prepared to vote for it."
A good intention perhaps, but much of the online reaction since has tended to bring up where the road paved with good intentions leads to. During Obama's first term, immigration reform efforts like the Dream Act have failed while enforcement-based policies like the controversial Secure Communities fingerprint-sharing program have stuck, contributing to record deportations.
A post last week examined an attempt by some California lawmakers to keep the children of deported immigrants out of foster care, a growing problem as record deportations lead to more separated families. It briefly cited a new federal report on deported parents that had just begun trickling out to legislators.
The details of the report, now making the rounds, are impressive. During the period between January 1, 2011 and June 30, 2011, according to the report, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement removed 46,486 immigrants from the country who claimed to be the parent of at least one U.S. citizen child.
The seven-page report to Congress is part of a federal response to lawmakers seeking more data from ICE on deported parents of U.S. citizen children. Interestingly, it cites a Homeland Security estimate from 2009 that tallied more than 100,000 parents of U.S. citizen children removed between 1998 and 2007. Spread out over several years, that's a relatively low number in comparison. Since then, as deportations have increased, so naturally have the deportations of parents.
The back-and-forth between immigration authorities and a university center that tracks federal data has become more heated, after Syracuse University's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) sent out a press release today once again accusing the federal government of inflating its deportation statistics and withholding public information.
In a report last month, TRAC accused U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement of inflating its tally of criminal deportations. ICE officials criticized the report as "wildly misleading," saying that deportees' criminal histories aren't always found in administrative removal records, hence the disparity in numbers.
In its release today, TRAC claims that an examination of case-by-case records provided by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) reveals that "many fewer individuals were apprehended, deported or detained by the agency than were claimed in its official statements — congressional testimony, press releases, and the agency's latest 2010 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics." From the release:
During the past week, Multi-American has been counting down the biggest and most influential immigration stories of 2011. That's not to say there were only five: It's been a major year for stories related to the immigration debate, especially as the battleground has shifted to the states, record deportations have continued, and the Obama administration's expansion of federal-local partnerships such as the Secure Communities fingerprint sharing program continues to draw controversy.
Stories that didn't make the list are also worth mentioning, among them the passage of state tuition-aid bills for undocumented students like the California Dream Act and the continued steep drop in illegal border crossings - even as illegal immigration remains a popular talking point for candidates seeking the presidency in 2012. Here are M-A's choices for top stories of the year.