How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

ICE rescinds Secure Communities MOAs, program continues

Photo by Chad Miller/Flickr (Creative Commons)

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has confirmed a conference call held earlier today regarding the future of the agency's embattled Secure Communities fingerprint-sharing program, which several state and local governments have announced plans to drop. They can't, according to the agency's latest move.

Agency spokeswoman Nicole Navas in Washington, D.C. sent along this statement regarding "a conference call with stakeholders earlier today on this matter:"

“In order to clarify that a memorandum of agreement between ICE and a state is not required to operate Secure Communities for any jurisdiction, today, ICE Director John Morton sent a letter to Governors terminating all existing Secure Communities MOAs to avoid further confusion."

State and local jurisdictions had signed memorandums of agreement, or MOAs, with the federal government before initiating their participation in the program, which the agency has insisted is not optional. The agreements


ICE deportations by the numbers

Photo by olongapowoodcraft/Flickr (Creative Commons)

The record deportations logged by the Obama administration continue on pace, with more people deported in fiscal year 2010 than ever before. This year promises similar numbers: ICE records through May 23 show that 243,821 people have been deported since last Oct. 1, the start of the 2011 fiscal year.

From an agency chart, the ICE removal numbers from recent years:

FY 2010 = 392,862

FY 2009 = 389,834

FY 2008 = 369,221

FY 2007 = 291,060

The average daily population of immigrants in detention rose slightly from 30,295 in FY 2007 to 33,366 in FY 2020, though the average length of stay - for most, the time they are held while awaiting deportation - has decreased.

Despite a federal push to deport more convicted criminals, according to agency stats, 197,090 of those deported in FY 2010 did not have a criminal record - a little more than half. But among those who did, what was it for? According to an Associated Press analysis, a growing number of people have been deported following traffic and DUI arrests. From a story today:


With Dream Act a tough sell, ICE prosecutorial discretion memo will be put to test

Photo by olongapowoodcraft/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A recently reintroduced Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act received its first Senate hearing this morning, in a chamber packed with young undocumented immigrants who stand to benefit from a bill that proposes granting conditional legal status to young people who arrived in the U.S. before age 16, provided they attend college or join the military and meet other criteria.

There's no date set yet for a vote, and the Dream Act has historically been a tough sell. In the meantime, though, the Obama administration recently clarified its position on Dream Act-eligible immigrants and where they fall on the priority scale for deportation, which is low.

Earlier this month, as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced planned reforms to its embattled Secure Communities enforcement program, among the memos released by the agency was one urging the use of prosecutorial discretion in the cases of certain immigrants when determining who should be detained or deported. Among these are undocumented immigrants who came as young children, have graduated from a U.S. high school, or who have pursued or are pursuing a college education. Those with military ties are on the list as well.


Secure Communities reform: Does anyone benefit?

Photo by Chad Miller/Flickr (Creative Commons)

It's been a few days since U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced planned reforms to its embattled Secure Communities enforcement program, which allows the fingerprints of people booked into local jails to be shared with immigration authorities.

The idea behind the changes, announced Friday, is to better focus the program on deporting serious criminals, to better train local law enforcement to understand its priorities, and to address any potential civil rights concerns.

Several immigrant advocates have denounced the changes as window dressing, but will any of these tweaks make a difference as to how many people get deported, and who? A few analyses since Friday's announcement have tried to answer this question.

  • A Houston Chronicle piece yesterday zeroed in on a key component, a memo from ICE director John Morton urging the use of prosecutorial discretion when determining who should be detained or deported, potentially sparing many. Morton's guidelines "instruct ICE officials to consider everything from a suspected illegal immigrant's community contributions to criminal history before making a determination on a case." More from the story:


Two sheriffs, two takes on Secure Communities

Photo by Pyrat Wesly/Flickr (Creative Commons)

In a three-part series this week, KPCC's Washington, D.C. correspondent Kitty Felde has been exploring the controversy over Secure Communities, a federal immigration enforcement program that also draws in local authorities. Yesterday, the Los Angeles City Council approved a resolution backing proposed California legislation that would allow individual cities and counties to opt out of the program, which they presently can't do.

Some law enforcement officials have complained that the program, which allows for the fingerprints of people booked into local jails to be shared with immigration authorities, undermines the trust of immigrant communities and potentially impedes policing. At the same time, others have praised it.

There is a stark divide, for example, between how the program is perceived by the sheriffs in Los Angeles and San Francisco. From today's piece: