DC Fights Anti-Immigrant Program
Last week, federal officials launched the “Secure Communities” program in the District of Columbia amid dissent from the entire City Council and Mayor. Secure Communities is a program designed to target illegal immigration by requiring local authorities to hand over the fingerprints of arrested individuals to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), so the agency can determine the individuals’ legal status and subsequently detain or deport them.
Secure Communities has been a controversial immigration policy because many argue that it erodes trust between law enforcement officials and members of the immigrant community, making people less willing to cooperate with police or less likely to report a crime out of fear of deportation—and therefore making communities less safe.
The DC Council unanimously voted to limit the reach of the program for this reason. The Council bill specifies that those subject to the program must be only individuals who have previously been convicted of a dangerous crime and they cannot be held beyond the normal sentence for more than 24 hours, rather than the program’s current practice of 48 hours, unless the federal government pays for the additional day. Moreover, the bill also prohibits local authorities from making general inquiries into the legal status of inmates. DC Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) is expected to sign the bill.
An effective immigration policy is one that resolves the broken system, but not at the price of the safety of our communities. One component of comprehensive immigration reform that strengthens our society is the DREAM Act, which would provide bright immigrant students with a path to citizenship if they attend college or serve in the military. Urge your Members of Congress to support this vital piece of legislation!